Pregnancy and Parenting

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Breastfeeding-The Beginning of a Lifetime of Good Health

Breastfeeding does more than provide a newborn baby with food, but creates a bond between mother and child. It brings lots of healthful benefits as well.

Breastfeeding has always been the gold standard for infant nutrition and is the optimum form of nourishment for a newborn baby. It delivers a wide range of health benefits beginning at birth that continues throughout the life cycle. In fact, mother's milk meets all the nutritional requirement of an infant at the beginning of life for growth and development. It contains a unique combination of nutrients that cannot be duplicated, thus, by far is considered the perfect food for infants.

Benefits for mum and child

Breastfeeding benefits both mother and infant. Infants who are breastfeed are less likely to get an ear infection, respiratory tract infections and diarrhea. It offers protection from developing allergies and even decreases the probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding has also been associated with a decreased incidence of asthma, better cognitive function and may also decrease the risk of childhood leukemia. Children who are exclusively breast-fed during the first three months of their lives are less likely to develop juvenile insulin-dependent diabetes and significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood.

Breastfeeding also contributes to a lifetime of good health. Several studies have shown that as breastfeed children grow into adults, they have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels thus less likely to develop heart disease. They have lower rates of overweight, obesity and type-2 diabetes as well.

Mothers too benefit. Mums who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life and are able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight easier. It lowers the rate of obesity and lowers the risk of breast cancer as well. Breastfeeding is also regarded as a natural form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective. Moreover, through breastfeeding, the relationship between mother and child is rooted and a bond is established.

The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2010 in line with UNICEF and WHO's Guidelines for Infant Feeding recommends that a mother practice exclusive breastfeeding from birth until six months and continue to breastfeed until two years of age. Recognising its advantages, making breastfeeding a priority is one of the important health measures you can take for you and your infant. Having a sufficient supply of milk is important to ensure that you are able to continue breastfeeding your infant up to two years of age. Here's how:

  • Have a well balance diet and nutritious meals with plenty of fluids
  • Supplement with Fenugreek, the herb that is used to increase production and volume of breast milk. Alternately, you can also use stinging nettle which yields similar benefits
  • Nurse frequently, at least every 2-hours during the day and at least every 3-hours during the night
  • Offer both breasts during feeding and switch sides three or more times during each feeding
  • Do away with pacifiers, bottles and artificial nipples
  • Get enough rest, take time to relax and minimise stress

This article has been published with permission and is courtesy of GNC LiveWell, Malaysia

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