Written By: Sarah Wilson
Dietetic Intern, Acadia University
Recommendations in Canada:
Infants can be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of their lives, after 6 months infants require other methods of feeding to ensure they are receiving proper nutrition. Breast feeding can continue up to the first two years of a child’s life, if they are receiving other forms of food to provide additional nutrition that is not provided through the breast milk.
Breast feeding: Fed is Best
Although breast feeding is recommended in Canada, only ¼ babies are exclusively breast fed for the recommended 6 months. A baby who is fed is best, regardless of if that is breast fed or formula fed. Some women have a hard time producing enough breast milk or any at all, this causes a lot of stress on mothers and can lead to postpartum depression and sleep deprivation. In these cases, formula fed would be more beneficial than breast feeding as it is causing more harm than good to both mother and baby.
Breast feeding: Benefits
Breast feeding is a natural process where the mother can feed their baby from their own breast. The mother’s body creates milk with sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and micronutrients for the baby to develop properly and healthy. Breast feeding has many benefits associated with it.
Breast milk provides “colostrum” this substance is the first of the breast milk just after the baby is born, it provides numerous antibodies to the baby, which help to fight off infections. Although, the entire time the baby is being fed by breast milk, the baby is being provided with antibodies via the regular breast milk as well. This will continuously help the baby to have enough antibodies to prevent and fight off various infections.
Breast milk also has probiotic factors, some will help to protect the immune system, and others will at as probiotics to help create a healthy gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome helps prevent obesity, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, and other chronic diseases.
Benefits for the mother:
Breast feeding provides benefits to the mother as well, it has been shown to protect against breast and ovarian cancers and chronic diseases like diabetes and coronary heart diseases. Breast feeding can also help with urinary tract infections for women. Breast feeding will also help the mother to lose pregnancy weight. Breast feeding also causes the body to produce good hormones, like prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin allows the mother to be at ease, relax and focus on breast feeding and the child and oxytocin promotes a sense of attachment between the mother and child.