Benefits of breastfeeding

More women should carry on breastfeeding their babies.
More women should carry on breastfeeding their babies.

South African health specialists promote breastfeeding as an important component of infant care because it provides complete nutrition and helps to prevent and fight infections.

Some women begin breastfeeding when their babies are born but stop soon afterwards for various reasons, such as a lack of support, the need to return to work or because they stop producing enough milk.

Breast milk is free

For mothers, breastfeeding is also good. Breastfeeding reduces a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant because it interrupts the menstrual cycle and has been found to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. 

Despite all these benefits most babies are not exclusively breastfed.

Andisiwe Gogo from Sibangweni location in Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape said she breastfed her daughter until she turned one. "I didn't have to buy formula and breast milk is free. I saw my baby growing well and being healthy with no complications. I could save that money for other things," she said. "I saw many changes in my baby that first year as she grew fat. Her skin is beautiful and clean,” she said.

Thembakazi Sigenu, a nurse in the maternity unit at Mnceba Clinic, agreed with the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and her baby and provided a list of benefits to the baby.

Breast milk: 

  • Contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months
  • Improves cognitive (learning ability) and motor development
  • Contains all the vitamins and minerals to help the baby to be healthy
  • Contains antibodies and growth factors that help the baby to grow strong and protect the baby from illnesses
  • Promotes bonding
  • Helps to reduce risk of chronic diseases
  • Is readily available

Sigenu also described the importance of colostrum (first milk that is thick and yellowish in colour), which protects the baby from infections, acts as their first immunization, and is rich in Vitamin A and protein. Then “mature milk” also has benefits: it’s rich in protein, lactose, vitamins, minerals and water, helps quench the baby's thirst and promotes growth. 

Sigenu added that breastfeeding has benefits to the mother. It prevents excessive bleeding, reduces the chance of pregnancy, helps protect the mother from breast cancer and ovarian cancer, is economical and helps with weight loss. – Health-e News.

Image credit: iStock

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