9 benefits of breastfeeding you need to know

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Woman breastfeeding a baby.
Woman breastfeeding a baby.
Jose Luis Pelaez

The World Health Organization and UNICEF have recommended for many years that mothers breastfeed for at least two years if possible. While some women are either unable to breastfeed or choose not to, breastfeeding has been said to have major health benefits, for both the mother and their baby.

In a virtual commemoration of Breastfeeding Week, minister of health Zweli Mkhize assured mothers of the safety of breastfeeding during the pandemic.

“I can assure you that the Covid-19 virus has not been found in breastmilk and research evidence has shown that the virus is not transmitted through breastmilk or by giving breastmilk that has been expressed from a mother who is confirmed/suspected to have Covid-19,” he said

Read more | WHO encourages mothers to breastfeed even if infected with Covid-19

For many mothers welcoming a baby is exciting but for some it can be scary, especially if they’ve never had to breastfeed before.

Breastfeeding is an exercise that not only saves mothers money on baby formula, but it also gives mothers time to relax and bond with their newborns.

Here are more benefits to breastfeeding that can extend to both you and your little one.

BENEFITS FOR BABIES

According to parent.com, breast milk contains immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that scientists have yet to replicate which makes it the best baby food.

It protects against allergies and eczema. If there's a history of either in one of the parents’ families, the proteins in formulas can stimulate an allergic reaction, while the proteins in human breast milk are more easily digested.

It causes less stomach upsets, diarrhea and constipation than formula. This is because breast milk is said to be easier for the baby's body to break down.

Helps make vaccines more effective. In the baby’s first year, they have to get a round of immunisations and vaccines. Research has shown that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines.

Read more | Why you need to switch from infant-speak to ‘parentese’ if you want your tot to learn language faster

BENEFITS FOR MOTHERS

According to WebMD, each mother and baby are unique and the decision to breastfeed is up to the mother. There a lot of benefits for mothers too.

Breastfeeding burns extra calories so it can help mothers lose the weight gained during pregnancy.

It will delay menstruation. Breastfeeding around the clock will cause a delay for ovulation, which means delayed menstruation.

It releases the hormone oxytocin – this helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may help reduce uterine bleeding after birth. This will also help heal your body after pregnancy.

It lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. According to a study done by Jama Oncology, breastfeeding is associated with a significant decrease in risk of ovarian cancer overall. The findings in the study also suggest that breastfeeding is a potentially modifiable factor that may lower risk of ovarian cancer independent of pregnancy alone.

Sources: WebMD.com, Parents.com, Jamanetwork.com