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Nursing: Benefits for mom and baby

Jaene Tenorio, Nutritionist
January 12, 2017
Did you know that nursing is as important for the baby as it is for the mother?

Nursing is as important for the baby as it is for the mother. Maternal milk is the best and most complete food for the baby. It is the only necessary and essential food during the first 6 months of life. During this time, the baby should not receive teas, juice, or even water. Some employ the use of teas to reduce cramps and calm the baby, however, offering teas, and any other liquid causes the baby to ingest less of the mother's milk thereby reducing the essential nutrient supply and anti-infective factors contained in the milk, which consequently weakens the child's defense organism.


Most women are able to breastfeed, and oftentimes those who are unable to do so cannot due to factors that could be avoided if there was proper guidance - which is often lacking. The only time nursing is not recommended is in the case of mothers with active and untreatable tuberculosis, galactosemia (rare hereditary disease), mothers on radioactive isotope therapy or who use illicit drugs. In the case of HIV-infected mothers, the decision varies from country to country. In the United States and Brazil, breastfeeding is not recommended in such cases.


One factor that causes mothers to not nurse, or to stop nursing, is the conception of insufficient milk.
Insufficient milk intake is a common cause of early supplementation with formulas or alternatives and discontinuation of breastfeeding. It is often just a perception as a result of the lack of confidence that is often reinforced by family and friends in response to a baby crying. Sometimes, ineffective feedings (due to improper handling and/or positioning) can result in increased baby demand for more frequent feedings. However, the perception of insufficient milk can be real and is generally due to inadequate breastfeeding practices such as delayed initiation of breastfeeding, poor positioning and/or bad latching, infrequent feedings generally with pre-established schedules, absences of night feedings, or even interference due to supplements and/or other foods offered.


Milk production is also affected by the psychological state of the mother. Lack of confidence, worry, stress, not liking to nurse, fatigue, rejection to the baby, all this can influence the production of milk. Therefore, it is always important that the mother is supported and encouraged by family members, friends, and health professionals who assist her.


For mothers who have contraindications for breastfeeding and/or those who have not been able to nurse due to other factors, it is a good idea to seek advice from a health professional to find out what is the best option for your baby. There are several infant formulas on the markets today, but it is important that you partner with a professional who will evaluate your baby and indicate the ideal choice.


The mother's milk is indicated as the child's exclusive food source during the first 6 months of life, and in a complementary way for at least 12 months. Ideally, children should continue to be nursed until they are 2 years old.


Benefits of nursing for the baby:
- The baby receives the antibodies from the mother for protection against infections, especially respiratory infections;
- The risk of allergies, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, and obesity is also decreased;
- Nursing favors the relationship between the mother and the baby, which helps the child to develop well physically and emotionally;
- It is a beneficial exercise for the development of the child's face, important in order for the child to have strong teeth, develop speech and have a good breathing;
- Provides analgesia during painful procedures;
- Improves performance in cognitive development tests.


Benefits of nursing for the mother:
- Helps to lose weight faster than gained during pregnancy;
- Decreases postpartum bleeding as well as the chances of developing anemia;
- Reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancer;
-Reduces the risk of diabetes and heart attack.