Breastfeeding, the process of feeding breast milk to an infant, is also called nursing. It can be done directly from the mother’s breast or may be expressed by hand or pumped out to feed the infant.
Nursing an infant is deemed one of the most effective feeding methods to support and sustain an infant’s growth and achieve healthy development throughout childhood. In addition, breastfeeding is linked with numerous advantages for both the mother and the baby.
Though breastfeeding isn’t always easy, especially for some first-time moms, learning to breastfeed can take time, practice, and patience. Still, the attachment comes naturally because babies also learn to follow their instincts to find their mother’s breast and attach.
A catchy phrase “breast is best” from the World Health Organization and other recognized health bodies is a promotion of exclusively feeding breastmilk as early as one hour after birth and up to 6 months of the infant’s life because of the health advantages to both babies and moms.
Research shows that there are numerous benefits for those who choose to breastfeed. A mother can make a personal decision, but the benefits are seemingly boundless. The longer the mother breastfeeds, the greater the benefits.
Infant’s Optimal Nutrition
Breastmilk has a nearly perfect combination of water, carbohydrate, protein, lipid, vitamins, and minerals uniquely suited to the infant, both nutritional and non-nutritive factors that promote survival and healthy development.
During the first days after giving birth, a mother’s breasts produce colostrum, a thick and yellowish fluid, the rawest form of breast milk produced in the mammary glands. It contains a dense of nutrients that are high in protein, antibodies, and antioxidants to build a newborn’s immune system.
The protein content is balanced, which allows quick and easy digestion, which is ideal for the undeveloped digestive tract of the newborn.
Additionally, breast milk naturally contains fats essential for a baby’s health. Primarily, fats are necessary for proper brain development, absorbing and processing fat-soluble nutrients as the primary calorie source. In addition, long-chain fatty acids are needed to develop the retina, brain, and nervous system. These acids in breast milk are stored in the brain during the last trimester of the prenatal period.
Vitamins and minerals found in breast milk support the baby’s healthy growth and optimum organ function, as well as the development of an infant’s teeth and bones.