Nature provides humans with plenty of necessities for optimum survival; however, people always go against the forces of nature in the quest for convenience. Mothers, for example, overlook the known benefits of breastfeeding their young ones and opt for formula feed for their young ones. Such a move creates problems both for the mother and the child; it denies the baby the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of breast milk. Breastfeeding has been linked to healthier babies and mothers. Babies who are breastfed wholly for the first six months have been found to be more intelligent and less prone to allergies (“Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom and Baby”). Similarly, mothers who lactate exclusively for the six months are less prone to some cancers, depression, and obesity. Breastfeeding, when practiced in its entirety for the first six months of life after birth, has numerous physical, mental, and social benefits for both the parent and the baby.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines breastfeeding as the act of nursing babies and young children with milk from their mother’s breasts. It is the healthy and natural way of providing children with the nutritional components that they require to grow optimally for the first few years of life. The World Health Organization recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life. During this period, children can survive solely on their mother’s milk because it contains the right blend of nutrients for them.
Formula milk has been found to have a very high protein content that puts babies at the risk of allergies and other nutritional deficiencies (Cai, Wardlaw and Brown 12). The nutrients in formula milk are specifically meant for a calf or a kid, the young ones of a goat.Formula feeding also denies babies the crucial social bonding experience with its mother. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the way to go (“Breastfeeding”).[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Global trends in exclusive breastfeeding
A review of the current literature on global trends in exclusive breastfeeding is important for it will give insight into where the world stands and is headed regarding breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is crucial and is associated with infant mortality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that WHO and other health advocating organizations have been drumming support for increased breastfeeding in the world in the last few decades. A review of the exclusive breastfeeding will reveal if their efforts have been rewarded in a world where people are becoming busier, prompting mothers to opt for formula feeding.
Research indicates that exclusive breastfeeding has been on the rise over the last three decades, with the last one decade registering a steady increase in the practice. The last decade alone recorded a 10% increase in global exclusive breastfeeding patterns (Cai, Wardlaw and Brown 12). These figures imply a move in the right direction, bearing in mind that there is a direct connection between exclusive breastfeeding and better health for both the mothers and the babies. A further study conducted by Cai, Wardlaw and Brown targeting 140 developing nations revealed that the rate of growth of exclusive breastfeeding in the developing world was 6% in the period 1995-2010 (12). Furthermore, exclusive breastfeeding in the developing countries, according to the study, had risen from 33%-39% during the period (12).
In the developed world, the trend was similar with an increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding being recorded. CDC also oversaw a study in the U.S., and rated the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding for the year 2011 at 49%. CDC’s study further prospected that by 2020, this rate will have shot to 60%. With the efforts of governments and healthcare organizations, this is achievable; more children are getting exclusively breastfed for the first six years of life more than ever before. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Benefits of breastfeeding
As stated earlier, breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both the mother and the baby. These benefits span from physical to mental and social. In this section, the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months will be analyzed with reference to either the mother or the baby.
Benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the mother
Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for the mother. Unfortunately, these positives are even ignored by those parents who are acutely aware of them. They are ignored though they mean a lot to the social, physical, mental, and health well being of the mother (Dermer 124).
One of these benefits is that it reduces the risk of mothers suffering from breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer (Terry et al. 1007). The logic behind this is that lactation leads to hormonal changes. It, for example, reduces the exposure of a woman to estrogen. Too much estrogen can lead to ovarian and breast cancer. By preventing ovulation, the risk of ovarian cancer is also lowered. Also, breastfeeding leads to the shedding of breast tissue which enhances the removal of cells with potentially damaged DNA.
The other benefit of exclusive lactation is that it prevents postpartum complications, including postpartum hemorrhage and pain. Postpartum refers to the period immediately following childbirth. Exclusive breastfeeding stimulates the production and release of Oxytocin. According to Dermer, this is the hormone responsible for the stimulation of milk release (125). It also triggers stimulations in the uterus that consequently leads to contractions, therefore preventing bleeding. These contractions also aid in uterine involution which is simply the returning of the uterus to its normal size and state (Dermer 125).
Another benefit of exclusive breastfeeding is that it facilitates child spacing and family planning. This method of family planning is referred to as Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) of natural contraception and has effectiveness rates of up to 99% in the prevention of pregnancies (Melville 29). Women who breastfeed exclusively for the first six months are guaranteed of not getting pregnant. This way, LAM promotes the physical recovery of mothers after pregnancy. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Exclusive lactation for the first six months of life also has the benefit of reducing costs associated with child rearing. Formula feeds and other supplements to mother’s milk can be expensive, particularly for the families in the lower social and economic tiers of the society (Victora et al. 478). The fact that exclusively breastfed babies are healthier than formula fed babies also can lead to lower costs, for it lowers expenses associated with healthcare (Dermer 124). When babies are exclusively breastfed, they are likely to fall ill less often, and thus families will spend less on healthcare. Additionally, parents go through less economic and social pressure in the long run.
Breastfeeding is associated with lower risks of obesity and better wealth management of mothers after giving birth. The production of milk requires a lot of calories. The process aids in burning the excess calories and fats that the mother had accumulated during pregnancy, which further lowers the risks of mothers getting overweight after birth (Lutter and Morrow 214). It also helps them regain shape faster after giving birth. Lactation is more effective in weight management than swimming or spending time at the gym. It is one of the best option mothers have after giving birth since in the few months following birth, they are not in the form to go to the gym or do hard labor.
Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the baby
Babies, just like mothers, reap numerous benefits from exclusive breastfeeding. One of these benefits is that they are at a lower risk of suffering from mineral deficiency disorders such as rickets and dental caries. Mother’s milk contains the right amount of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and other essential minerals. When babies consume this milk, they get adequate supplies of these nutrients at an early age, which promotes the development of healthy bones. Strong bones reduce the risk of disorders such as rickets, scurvy, and osteoporosis at old age. Exclusively breastfed babies also have stronger teeth (Salone, Vann and Dee 146). The risk of osteoporosis is also lower in lactating mothers since the high demand for minerals influences them to consume more of which excesses are stored in the body for later use.
The other benefit of exclusive breastfeeding is that it leads to a stronger immunity and a healthier baby. The antibodies in a mother’s milk help boost the child’s immune system and empower it to fight common childhood diseases such as colds, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal disorders (“How Breastfeeding Benefits You and Your Baby”). Formula fed babies miss out on these antibodies, and they end up with more health complications compared to breastfed babies.
Exclusive breastfeeding is also connected to lower risks of obesity and better weight management during childhood and adulthood. Anatolitou states that exclusively breastfed babies are less prone to obesity when compared to formula fed babies (13). The high fat and protein content in formula milk increases the risk of obesity during childhood and adulthood. Prevention of obesity is not the only health benefit of exclusive breastfeeding; it also reduces the risk of babies being underweight. When babies do not get the ideal blend of nutrients or when they fall sick frequently, there is a risk that they will lag behind their peers who do not fall victim to these two adversarial conditions. Formula fed babies do not get the right combination of nutrients and fall ill more often thus putting them at higher risks of being underweight (“Breastfeeding”).
Exclusive breastfeeding also has the benefit of reducing the risk of babies suffering from allergies, asthma, and other related complications. Immune factors in mother’s milk create a protective lining in the intestinal tract that reduces the risk of foods leaking out into the surrounding tissues (Robinson and Fall 862). The lower protein and fat content in a mother’s milk also lower the possibility of allergies (Anatolitou 12). Formula fed babies are more prone to allergies due to the high concentration of proteins in cow and goat milk.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth is also associated with increased intelligence and higher IQ. Choi et al. reiterate that the increase in intelligence is correlated with the right concentrations of calcium, phosphorous, Zinc, and other critical nutrients in human milk (15). These nutrients are essential for the vital brain connections that occur during the first year of life.
Exclusive breastfeeding also helps to build a social bond between the baby and the mother. As the child suckles, a connection with the mother develops, which is important in personality development. Dermer affirms that a mother’s approach towards breastfeeding influences later personality of children (125). It is important that a mother looks directly into the baby’s eyes as she suckles it. She should also hold it warmly in a loving manner. Aggressiveness and unresponsiveness of mothers during breastfeeding leads to the development of traits such as shyness and deficits in confidence.
Barriers to breastfeeding and recommendations for mothers
There are several barriers to exclusive breastfeeding. These are the factors that make mothers opt for alternatives to breastfeeding. Barriers to breastfeeding are more prevalent in the West than in Africa and other regions of the world. The western lifestyle to a large extent influences mothers not to breastfeed. According to the U.S Office of the Surgeon General, one of the factors is uncertainty by new mothers about breastfeeding. Anxiety about breastfeeding is common for new mothers, particularly in the West where families and the society put little effort towards educating new mothers about childbirth, breastfeeding, and taking care of a newborn. For this reason, new mothers feel that they are not ready to breastfeed; they fear that they may not do it right.
The other common barrier to breastfeeding is the inconveniences associated with breastfeeding, as the U.S Office of the Surgeon General confirms. Breastfeeding might consume a considerable chunk of a mother’s time. Working mothers at times are forced to rush home between breaks to breastfeed their babies. At times, they make arrangements for their babies to be delivered at the place of work for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also calls for mothers to shun a lot of habits such as smoking and consumption of alcohol. It becomes difficult for some to quit these habits and they prefer to opt for formula feeding.
One of the recommendations for mothers who feel reluctant to breastfeed is that they should try to gather much knowledge about breastfeeding and childcare. They should exploit the relaxed time they have during pregnancy to familiarize with the life of being a mother (Melville 40)
It is also recommended that mothers should try to breastfeed at their places and time of convenience, which ensures that they do it right and give adequate time for social bonding.
Avoiding breastfeeding in crowded places can be greatly enhanced by them seeking support from families and the society as a whole (Lutter and Morrow 214). During post-natal appointments with doctors, mothers can ask questions in areas that they are not sure.
The community should also be encouraged to play its part in the empowerment of women and particular young mothers. Through training sessions and other forms of empowerment initiatives, the society can make the life of these mothers more bearable. Young mothers, particularly, need such help. In these meetings, they can share experiences and consult with each other. It will help them deal with the resistance they have towards breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is an essential activity that has numerous social and health benefits for both the mothers and the baby. It enhances bonding between the two as well as shields both from health disorders. Breastfed children are healthier than those who are not breastfed exclusively for six months. Mothers who lactate for six months exclusively also enjoy numerous health benefits. The main barriers to breastfeeding are inconveniences associated with breastfeeding and uncertainty for new mothers. They can be overcome by acquiring as much knowledge as possible and seeking support from family members and society. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the way to go.
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