Many people believe that the best thing a mother can do to her new born is to breastfeed them for as long as possible. One of the key reasons why this is recommended is because breast milk contains all the nutrients in their correct proportions required for healthy development of the baby. This way, breastfeeding ensures that the baby is able to survive the many diseases that are common among many children under the age of 1 year which are known to be the leading causes of mortality rates. Another reason why breastfeeding is recommended is because it provides the mother and the baby with time to bond.
This is the only time the mother and the baby spend alone without interference from other members of the family. Babies who were breastfed for a considerable time immediately after birth have proven to be very close to their mothers because of the bond formed during breastfeeding. Due to these reasons and many more, the pediatricians and other experts in the topic are increasing awareness on the importance of breastfeeding to reduce mortality rates worldwide.
Health Benefits Associated With Breastfeeding For Mom
There are very many health benefits that are associated with breastfeeding. However, many people only know the health benefits that the children enjoy due to breastfeeding without knowing that even the lactating mothers enjoy some health benefits. Here are some few benefits of breastfeeding to the mother.
1. It Helps In Weight Loss
While some women add weight when they are breastfeeding, there are those that lose eight very easily. Breastfeeding is known to significantly increase the energy demand of the mother so that they require about 5oo calories every day. This change leads to hormonal imbalances in the female body, which leads them to have an increased appetite. Due to an increased food intake, there is an increase in fat storage which will help in the production of milk. At this stage, the mother will add on some weight. Three months of continued breastfeeding will result in an increase in the metabolism rate of the body which will increase the rate at which the fat is utilized. All these processes will actively result in weight loss.
2. It helps Lower The Risk Of Depression
Postpartum depression is very common among new mothers. It is a kind of depression that is mainly caused by hormonal changes and imbalance in the body of the mother immediately after birth. Studies have shown that about 15% of the total new mothers are affected by postpartum depression. Women who breastfeed their babies are at a lower risk of getting depression. This is because breastfeeding encourages the secretion of hormones like oxytocin that acts as an anti-depressant that will prevent the mother from feeling depression. In addition there are hormones that are produced by the body as a result of breastfeeding that encouraged bonding between the mother and child.
3. It Helps In The Contraction Of The Uterus
The uterus is normally the same size as a pear and during pregnancy; it expands in size to fill up the space in the entire abdomen. After the mother has delivered the baby, the uterus will undergo a process referred to as involution, where it contracts in size to resume the size it was before. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for this and it is also secreted during pregnancy. At this point, the hormone helps in reducing the amount of blood loss during pregnancy and make delivery easier. When the mother is breastfeeding, the hormone levels in the body are increased. The hormone at this stage helps in reducing the bleeding in the uterus and induces contractions so that the uterus resumes its original size before the pregnancy.
Epigenetic Effects Of Breastfeeding
With all the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, researchers are working to find is breastfeeding is related to any of the epigenetic mechanisms. By simple definition, epigenetic mechanisms can be said to be biochemical alterations of the DNA material that only affects the expression but has no effect whatsoever on the sequence of the gene. In most cases, these alterations are caused by environmental factors and they are transferable from parent to child by inheritance. These epigenetic mechanisms could lead to disorders in the body and even diseases that are hereditary. Breastfeeding is believed to epigenetically prevent the occurrence of these diseases and disorders.
1.Immune system disorders
Breastfeeding has been linked to prevention of inheritance of some immune system disorders especially acute otitis media and gastrointestinal infections even when the baby is genetically susceptible to these conditions. The working principle closely resembles that of the NEC. In this case, the gut micro-bacteria mediate the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines genes epigenetically. In addition to that, breast milk is known to contain many oligosaccharides that actively help in development of the gut micro-bacteria. This leads to the epigenetic programming of the phenotype of the baby to make them resistant to the condition.
Obesity is commonly categorized as a multi-factorial disease. This is because it is caused by an interaction of many factors like the environment, nutrition and feeding habits, lifestyle and genetics. Babies that were not breastfed are at a higher risk of being affected by intestinal dysbiosis that results in an epigenetic expression that is not only unhealthy but also risky. Due to the important role of the gut micro-bacteria in the metabolism of the body, it could lead to obesity if the micro-bacteria are unbalanced. Obesity is very closely linked to the early-life diet and nutrition habits of the baby and due to this; it is very possible for the condition to be epigenetically prevented by breastfeeding babies.
Breast milk has very many advantages to the bodies of both the mother and the baby. With increased technology and research, more and more benefits of breast milk are being discovered, making breast milk very important for both the mother and the baby. Due to the many benefits of breastfeeding it is anticipated that the breastfeeding campaigns will continue to increase in the near future. This way, the mortality rates will reduce and the general health of the world population will be boosted significantly.