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01 Aug 2017 dr. Rini Siallagan Articles 91
Breastfeeding is believed to offer various benefits to the mother and her babies.  Not only is breastfeeding advantageous in a health aspect, it is undeniably beneficial in psychological, socio-economical and environmental aspects.

Breastfeeding gives a diet and nutrition required for the feeding infant.  It is recommended that exclusive breastfeeding be done for the first 6 months of life.  Breastfeeding should be continued thereafter, while complementary foods are slowly introduced for one year or longer.  

Benefits of Exclusive Breastfeeding and Extended Breastfeeding for the Infant Include:

1. Lower rate of  acute respiratory tract infections.

2. Lower rate of ear infections.

3. A 64% reduction of gastrointestinal infections, such as: diarrhea.

5. Breastfeeding is associated with 36% reduced risk of Sudden Infantile Death Syndrome (SIDS).

6. Offers a protective effect to the infant for diseases like asthma, allergic dermatitis, and eczema.

7. Lowers the risk of the infant developing celiac disease later in life by 52%, and inflammatory bowel disease by 31%.

8. Infants who are breastfed are reported to have lower risk of obesity

9. It is reported that infants who are breastfed for 6 months or longer have a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes mellitus (“childhood” diabetes) by 30%.  Studies have shown that infants exposed to cow milk, which contains a protein called B-lactoglobulin, may play a role in developing diabetes type 1.

10. There is a reduced risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma in infants who are breastfed exclusively.

What does breast milk contain?

Breastmilk is certainly a unique substance as the contents of breast milk changes as the baby’s needs changes.  The content of breast milk found for a five-day-old infant is different than what is found for a 3-month old baby.

  1. Colostrum: colostrum is a substance found in breast milk.  It has a thick yellowish gold color, and is produced during pregnancy and after delivery.  Colostrum is very rich in nutrients and also contains antibodies, which boosts the infant’s immune system and gastrointestinal system.

  2. Breast milk is rich in fat, sugar, water, and protein, which aids the baby’s growth.  The amount and of fat, sugar, water, and protein changes as the baby’s needs changes.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Mother:

1. Reduces the risk of post partum bleeding.

2. Helps the womb or uterus to return to its original size.

3. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are reported to have lower risk of post partum depression.

4. Helps reduce body weight.

5. According to the latest research, mothers that breastfeed for 6 months or longer have a lower risk developing type 2 diabetes mellitus at a later age.

6. According to research, mothers that breastfeed for 6 months or longer have lower risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer at a later age.

7. Breastfeeding helps the bonding of a mother with her babies because of skin-to-skin contact.  Breastfeeding also increases the release of oxytocin (the “love hormone”).

Aside from health aspect benefits, breastfeeding is also advantageous in an economic aspect. The price of milk formula (especially if it’s rich in protein) is not cheap, and surely breastfeeding will help the family’s budget. The content of breast milk is rich of natural nutrients and surely will be more economical. Allergy to breast milk is quite rare compared to the infant suffering from intolerance to formula.  Lactose intolerance caused by drinking the formula may increase the hospitalization of the baby and increase expenditure.

Mothers surely have their own challenges to breastfeeding. Sometimes mothers become nervous and worry whether they are producing enough milk for the baby’s needs.  However, once the mother overcomes that obstacle, breastfeeding is much simpler than formula feeding.  For instance, you do not have to sterilize feeding bottles, measure spoons of milk powders and how hot the water is.

Breastfeeding is not simply the act of inserting a nipple into a baby’s mouth, it is beyond that.  Breastfeeding is an act of emotional bonding between mother and child.  The campaign to breastfeed should be supported and encouraged by everyone.  The father should emotionally support and inject confidence into the mother and ensure that breastfeeding is an important matter in the family.  The society, through doctors, health care professionals, and hospitals should advocate and educate that breastfeeding is surely the best option for your family.