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Breastfeeding and Its Importance

Updated on September 3, 2014

Expectant mothers are encouraged as soon as they deliver they should make it a point to breastfeed their infants. One of the reasons why an infant should be breastfed is because the baby will feel loved, warm and secure. Also, it helps to develop bonding between the mother and his/her baby.

Generally, a baby is born with three reflexes, namely: rooting, sucking and swallowing reflexes. These reflexes enable the infant to breastfeed.

Colostrum, a thick yellowish and slippery milk very rich in antibodies protect the infant from infections as the baby sucks milk from the mother’s breast. Furthermore, the colostrum helps in cleaning the intestine. The colostrum is produced during the first three to four months during pregnancy. It is referred as the first vaccine a child receives against infections.

When the child sucks the milk from the mother’s breast it fires up production of more milk thus enabling the child to benefit from colostrum. Nonetheless, if the child does not suck after three to four days after birth, the breast milk will stop flowing.

Mothers are persuaded to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months, but up to the age of two years is highly recommended.

Mothers should try to observe balance diet, drink plenty of fluids in order to have plenty of breast milk. They can as well opt to drinking porridge which contains a mixture of maize flour, sorghum and millet (or appropriate ones).

They should avoid consumption of alcohol as it interferes with the production of breast milk. Not only does it interfere with production of breast milk, the breast milk also contains alcohol which proves fatal for brain development of the baby.

Types of Breastfeeding

a) Exclusive Breastfeeding

This is when the child depends on breast milk only. The mother spends all the time with the baby. The baby is not given any drink or food. He/she is breastfed up to six months.

b) Partial Breastfeeding

This is whereby the baby is fed partly on milk and partly on supplementary foods. This mostly happens when the child is weaned or the mother works and is unable to spend the whole time with the child.

Breastfeeding | Source

Weaning refers to when a child is introduced to supplementary foods alongside breast milk. Weaning starts after six months. In the case of mothers who are full-time housewives, they can continue breastfeeding their babies for up to 2 years while feeding them on supplementary foods.

The reason why babies should be weaned after the start of six months is because at this age the baby is growing older, hence the baby requires an increased amount of nutrients. The nutrients from the mother’s breast milk are not enough. If not weaned at the start of the seventh month, the child will develop malnutrition.

Working mothers can opt for partial breastfeeding early on though the baby should be breastfed up to 2 years. The mother should express the breast milk into a clean cup which should be stored in a clean place to avoid contamination.

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a) Token Breastfeeding

This is a situation whereby the baby is rarely breastfed. Instead, the baby is fed mostly on supplementary food. It is not recommended for young babies.

Advantages of Breastfeeding

  • The baby requires all the nutrients he/she needs for the first six months from the mother’s breast milk.
  • It develops bonding between the mother and the baby.
  • Unlike cow’s milk and formula milk, it is easy for the infant to digest mother’s breast milk. In the case of the other types of milk offered to the baby, it will take about 3-4 hours to digest, and the baby will tend to feed less.
  • Colostrum found in the mother’s breast milk helps in cleaning the intestine of the baby by removing the black stool left from pregnancy.
  • It is readily available, convenient and cheap.

Breastfeeding | Source
Breastfeeding nude
Breastfeeding nude | Source
  • The breast milk is always at the right temperature.
  • It contains antibodies which protect the baby from infections.
  • It helps in protecting the mother from getting engorged breasts, and the mother can get sick if she does not breastfeed.
  • The baby will get sufficient amount of water from the mother’s breast milk since it contains enough water. In exclusive breastfeeding there is no need for the baby to receive extra water for the first six months.
  • It is free of impurities.
  • It helps in the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system than cow’s and formula milk.

A Outlook at How the Breast Milk Aids the Baby’s Immune System Fight Infections

As opposed to formula fed babies, breastfed babies have fewer illnesses.

The mother’s milk contains antibodies, white blood cells and phagocytes which fight infections.

Iron is transported to the baby through breast milk in form of a protein known as ‘lactoferin.’ It helps in protecting the baby against most of the harmful bacteria during breastfeeding.

Lastly, breast milk contains ‘lactobacillus’ bacteria. This bacteria creates an acidic environment in the baby’s intestine, thus killing harmful bacteria and germs. This explains why a bay’s stool doesn’t smell badly.

The Importance of Breastfeeding

Types of Breast Milk

The following are the stages the breast milk undergoes:

a) Colostrums

Colostrum is the first milk produced from the mother’s breasts. It occurs during pregnancy. “Your body starts making it about three to four months into pregnancy, and it may leak from your breasts while you’re pregnant,” states BabyCentre. It doesn’t last for long, only a few days after delivery.

Colostrum is thicker than the rest of the other two types of breast milk, and is creamy or yellowish in color.

It is rich in protein, minerals, fat-soluble vitamins and immunoglobulins.

Immunoglobulins as explained by American Pregnancy Association (APA) “are antibodies that pass from the mother to the baby and provide passive immunity for the baby. Passive immunity protects the baby from a wide variety of bacteria and viral illnesses…”

Production of colostrum lasts for 3-4 days.

b) Transitional Milk

This type of milk is produced two to four days after birth. Transitional milk which replaces colostrums lasts for two weeks.

Transitional milk contains water-soluble vitamins, lactose and has high amount of fat. Unlike colostrum, transitional milk has high levels of calories.

c) Mature Milk

The last type of milk (the last stage of milk production), mature milk contains high levels of water. It is composed of 90% water, and 10% consists of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Mature milk is sub-divided into two types:

i) Fore Milk

It is produced at the beginning of feeding. Fore milk is bluish and watery. It is rich in vitamins, lactose (sugar), proteins and minerals.

ii) Hind Milk

It occurs at the end of feeding, “after the initial release of milk.” It looks white in color. Hind milk has high levels of fat for energy and weight gain.


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