Importance of breast milk to babies

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It is important you know. Proper baby‘s nutritional information and choice, affect her growth and development. Balanced nutrition is very vital in proper growth and development of babies. High quality nutrition boosts baby’s immune system; provides adequate nourishment and biological defenses that enable her to fight infections and diseases. Babies derive nourishment from nutritional values of breast milk and essential solid foods. Armed with the knowledge of essential nutritional ingredients in breast milk and solid baby foods, the informed choice of your baby’s nutrition becomes critical to her natural growth and development.

IMPORTANCE OF BREAST MILK TO BABIES

Breast milk is God’s nutritional gift through mothers to their babies during child-bearing terms. Breast milk is fresh, ready-made and comprehensive food nursing mothers supply to their babies. During the first six months of life, breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for babies. Medically, breast milk naturally provides antibodies and lymphocytes from the mother to help the baby resist infections, diseases and common infections such as diarrhea and respiratory problems; and reduce risk of food allergies. Human breast milk quenches the baby’s thirst and hunger; and provides the proteins, sugar, minerals and iron that the baby needs. Breast milk is economical, promotes healing and better overall health of babies.

BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING TO CHILD AND MOTHER

Breastfeeding continues to offer health benefits during and after toddlerhood. These benefits include lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), increased intelligence, decreased likelihood of contracting middle ear infections. Breast fed babies enjoy high resistance to cold and flu, decrease in the risk of childhood leukemia (cancer) and low risk of childhood onset diabetes. Other benefits are decreased risk of asthma and eczema; decreased dental problems and decreased risk of obesity later in life. Included benefit is a decreased risk of developing psychological disorders which can occur in adopted children. It promotes good bonding between mothers and children.

Babies on adequate breast milk pass more than four yellow and seedy stools; and urinate for about six times a day resulting to better outcome of early natural systemic detoxification. Such babies do sleep well, always at alert when awake and do not vomit after each feed. Babies who are sufficiently breastfed digest solid foods better and easier compared to the artificially fed babies. Breastfed babies readily accept solid foods because they are already conversant with the variety of tastes and flavours of foods passed to them through the breast milk from their mothers. Research has shown that as a result of the amazing content of breast milk, breastfed babies have better gastric motility, mucosal mass, intestinal host defenses, brain and retinal growth. It is generally accepted that breastfeeding is very important in the early period of life. Also, it potentially has long-lasting or lifelong biological effects in human life.

Breastfeeding also provides amazing health benefits to mothers. It assists the uterus of mothers who engage in appropriate breastfeeding in returning to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces post-partum bleeding, as well as assist the mother in returning to her pre-pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding mothers have reduced risk of unwanted pregnancy, ovarian and premenopausal breast cancer according to medical experts.

Ideally, breastfeeding should start about 30 minutes after child birth and continue as the baby demands. World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with solid foods gradually introduced about this age, when signs of readiness are shown by the baby. Supplementary breastfeeding is recommended for at least age two, then for as long as the mother and child wish.

CONTENT OF BREAST MILK

Naturally the exact composition of breast milk varies from day to day, depending on food consumption and environment; meaning that the ratio of water to fat in breast milk fluctuates. Breast milk composition changes rapidly during the first week, increasing in fat and lactose concentration and decreasing in protein, vitamin, and mineral content. After the first 7 days, changes continue at a slower rate until breast milk reaches the “mature” stage around Day 21 (Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences 1991). Breast milk, which is 90% water, contains nutrient proteins, non-protein nitrogenous compounds, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, growth factors and protective agents. It also has 10% solid components for energy and growth.
During the first few days before or after delivery, the mother produces colostrum. Colostrum gradually changes to mature breast milk later. Colostrum is a thin yellowish fluid that is rich in protein and antibodies that provide passive immunity to the baby because her immune system is not fully developed at birth. Colostrum produces a mild laxative effect, expels meconium (first stool of newborn baby) and prevents the build-up of bilirubin (a contributory factor in jaundice disease). Colostrum also helps the newborn’s digestive system to grow and function properly.

BEST PRACTICES DURING BREASTFEEDING

Improper connection of baby to the nipple should be avoided. Mothers should avoid scheduled and infrequent nursing of babies which may cause vitamin deficiencies and low growth rate. Substances that can unwittingly pass to the infant via breast milk such as alcohol, viruses or medications; and inappropriate and unhygienic preparation of babies’ foods that could cause diseases should be avoided.

A-MUST-KNOW FOR EXPECTANT AND NURSING MOTHERS

Expectant mothers should take prescribed prenatal vitamins and should not take additional supplements without consulting a doctor because some vitamins like A and D, in high doses, can have toxic effects on babies. Nursing mothers should limit the intake of saturated fats because babies who consume breast milk high in saturated fat may be at increased risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels later in life. Breastfeeding mothers should increase their intake of docosahexanoic acid (DHA) which plays important roles in brain development by eating significant quantities of fish. Nursing mothers should breastfeed their infants on demand. This helps babies to adjust intake in response to changes in breast milk.

In addition, more frequent breastfeeding may boost the content of essential fat in breast milk. A nursing mother should let her baby take her time at each breast. As noted above, premature breast-switching can rob babies of essential fat and other nutrients in breast milk. Childbearing mothers should make breastfeeding baby-friendly and a must-do practice.

CONTENTS OF IDEAL SOLID FOODS FOR BABIES

Solid foods are gradually introduced to compliment breast milk after at least six months of consistent breastfeeding a baby. It is important to start solid foods after six months because from that age, the breast milk will not be sufficient to supply all the needed nutritional ingredients for ideal growth and development of babies.

Start the baby on a small quantity of variety of mashes and semi-solid fortified foods of her interest after a little breastfeeding during each feed. Usually, some careful attempts are necessary to reveal the baby’s interest. As the baby grows, introduce fruits and vegetables.

The ideal babies’ solid foods are rich in: Vitamin A which is good for bright eyes, smooth skin and good respiratory system. Carotenoids and beta carotenes which serve as antioxidants and sources of vitamin A. Vitamin C which is essential for resisting colds and other infections. Vitamin E and Selenium which help in defenses against viruses and infections. Vitamin B6 which is for mental alertness and nervous system balancing.

Vitamin B12 and Folic acid which help to prevent anemia and promote cell division. Zinc which balances mental equilibrium. Protein which is for defense against pathogens and serves as the building blocks of amino acids, muscle and bone. Calcium which is for strong and good structured bones, muscle contraction, proper nerve, heart and kidney functions; and blood clotting.

EXAMPLES OF NATURAL SOURCES OF IDEAL BABY FOODS

Some of the examples of baby solid foods that provide the above essential nutrients are yogurts, sardines, salmon, crayfish, skimmed and whole milk. Other important ones are tofu, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits (fruits generally), cereals, beans (grains), nuts and liver. The nutrients must be in appropriate amount in the baby’s diet to make the required impact on the growth and development of a healthy baby.

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