Breastfeeding Is More Than Just Food – by Dr. Melanie Beingessner
While the breastfeeding process exists to nourish a newborn and to provide everything that it needs to grow, breastfeeding is much more than food for a baby. The entire breastfeeding process provides significant benefits for both the baby and the mother.
1. Breast Milk Is A Living Substance
Babies do not have a fully functioning immune system until they are one year old. For the first year of life, a breastfeeding mother actually provides the immune response for a baby who is exposed to a cold or flu. If a baby were to suffer a cold, his mother would immediately start to increase her white blood cell production to counteract the bacteria or virus whether or not she experiences the baby’s symptoms. The baby would get these doses of immunity through breast milk. Breast milk contains many white blood cells (the blood cells that fight bacteria, viruses and parasites) and because of them, breast milk can actually sit on a countertop for 8 hours and be perfectly safe to drink.
2. Breastfeeding Improves Health
The proteins, carbohydrates and fatty acids in breast milk provide everything that a baby needs to grow strong bones, muscles and tissues. All of these components of breast milk exist in perfect proportion to a growing baby’s needs. Breast milk proteins are easily digested and breastfed babies feed often to build up their mother’s milk supply. The fatty acids found in breast milk help to support the growth of the baby’s brain and nervous system. The carbohydrates (or sugars) found in breast milk provide energy for the baby to play and interact with her world.
Breastfeeding provides great health benefits for the mother after birth, it helps to contract the uterus back to its pre-pregnant state. Mothers who breastfeed for longer periods of time experience less breast or uterine cancer later on in life.
3. Breastfeeding Promotes The Bonding and Attachment Process.
The hormone oxytocin stimulates the let down reflex when a baby starts to breastfeed; however, the role of oxytocin is not just for breastfeeding. In fact, oxytocin is called the hormone of love. Our bodies release high doses of oxytocin during the infatuation stage of love which creates the wonderful high that we experience when we first fall for someone. Breastfeeding creates this same feeling of infatuation every time a mother breastfeeds her baby. These continual doses of oxytocin enhance the bonding and attachment process to securely attach the mother/baby pair.
A Critical Period to Establish Breastfeeding
We all know that breast milk is best for babies. However, there is a vulnerable time for both the mother and the baby for the first month after birth as they learn to breastfeed. Some babies learn easily, others take their time. If a baby is continually fussy during this process a new mother can interpret the fussiness to mean that the baby has a specific problem with her, and that can influence her decision whether or not to keep trying.
With a calmer baby, there is a greater chance that the mother will continue to breastfeed, which helps to create a more bonded mother and infant and a relatively peaceful home life. With the reduction of crying and fussiness, the relationship between the mother and father is less strained in the transitional year to becoming a family, and that helps to bond the family unit more easily.
The Reason Behind The Baby’s Crying
When a baby fusses or cries, especially in the evening, the problem is usually that the baby is experiencing an adverse reaction to something that the mother is eating. If a breastfeeding mother can alter her diet on a short-term basis, the baby usually calms down and the breastfeeding process becomes easier for both mother and baby.
The main food source that a breastfeeding mother eats that causes babies discomfort are cow’s milk proteins. Small amounts of cow’s milk proteins end up in breast milk and can cause the baby to experience either food hypersensitivities or food intolerances. The resulting symptoms are gas, bloating, discomfort and crying. (Sound familiar?)
There are other foods that consistently cause a baby to experience discomfort. For more information, please visit Dr. Melanie’s website.
About The Author
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a chiropractor, a breastfeeding counsellor, an infant massage instructor and the mother of three.
She is the author of The Calm Baby Cookbook and offers additional information about pregnancy and breastfeeding.