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Breastfeeding: Numerous Benefits for Mom, Baby, and Society

Introduction

Health experts recommend that mothers should breastfeed their babies because it has great health benefits. Health care systems across the world have been struggling to promote breastfeeding so that mothers, babies, and society can derive the health benefits that breastfeeding bestows. Due to changing lifestyles coupled with traditions, different cultures do not consider breastfeeding as an indispensable part of health, which benefits mothers, babies, and society.

Although breastfeeding has numerous benefits for babies, mothers, and society, many mothers do not breastfeed for the recommended period. According to Clark and Bungum, “currently 16% of Americans breastfeed their children for at least 12 months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians, which is below the goal of 25% set in the Healthy People 2010” (158). This means that a considerable number of mothers and babies do not derive substantial benefits from breastfeeding; hence, making the society not achieve recommended health status. Thus, this research paper argues that mothers should breastfeed their babies for it has significant benefits for babies, mothers, and society.

Benefits for Babies

Women should breastfeed their babies because it has significant benefits for babies. Breastfeeding increases the immunity of babies against infectious diseases. Comparative studies indicate that infectious diseases are more prevalent among bottle-fed babies than among breastfed babies. The difference in the prevalence of infectious diseases occurs because bottle-fed babies have lower immunity than breastfed babies do. According to a study, “respiratory tract infections were observed in 23% of the breastfed and 38.9% of bottle-fed infants,” (Clark and Bungum 159). This means that breastfeeding enhances the immunity of babies against respiratory tract infections.

For instance, breastfeeding benefits babies by increasing their immunity against pneumonia. Since pneumonia is a prevalent infection among children aged 2 to 11 months, breastfeeding has proved to reduce the occurrence of pneumonia by 73% among the children within this age bracket (Clark and Bungum 159). In addition to pneumonia, breastfeeding reduces the risk of contracting urinary tract infections among infants. For this reason, breastfeeding boosts immunity and thus prevents common infections that affect children.

Apart from reducing incidences of infectious diseases, breastfeeding also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and leukemia. Breastfeeding reduces the occurrence of both types I and types II diabetes. Women who do not breastfeed their babies bottle-feed them using cow’s milk, which has unique proteins. Some proteins trigger an immune response that destroys pancreatic cells leading to the development of diabetes. Extensive research studies indicate a lack of breastfeeding contributes to the occurrence of about 25% of cases of type I diabetes and significantly increases the prevalence of type II diabetes among the population (Clark and Bungum 160).

These findings suggest that breastfeeding babies significantly helps in reducing the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a common metabolic disorder that is attributable to changes in lifestyles and nutrition, thus contributing to health disorders globally. Besides diabetes, asthma and leukemia are other chronic diseases that breastfeeding can prevent among children. Thus, women should breastfeed their babies to protect them from chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and leukemia.

Health care experts recommend that women should breastfeed as breast milk has the right nutrition that is appropriate for healthy growth and development. Essentially, breast milk has complete nutrition because it provides the right proportion of proteins, fats, sugar, vitamins, and water. The right proportion of nutrients in breast milk makes babies grow and develop healthy bodies. In contrast, formulated nutrition does not provide an accurate proportion of nutrients that babies require, hence, predisposing them to overweight and obesity. Moreover, breast milk is good for babies because they can easily digest it when compared to formula.

A prospective study showed that breastfeeding reduces body mass index, which consequently prevents children from becoming obese (Owen, Martin, Whincup, Davey-Smith, Gillman, and Cook 1306). Hence, mothers need to breastfeed their babies to reduce cases of obesity and associated complications among children.

Although one can argue that proper nutrition in the formula is central in improving the health status of children for them to grow and develop well, breastfeeding remains to be standard nutrition. The advancement in technology and nutrition has enabled dieticians to develop an appropriate formula for babies that they can substitute with breast milk. However, not all mothers can access and afford the formula because it is expensive and unreliable.

Wen, Baur, Rissel, Alperstein, and Simpson state that the use of formula does not provide the safest way to feed babies because the formula contains chemicals and preservatives that pose significant health risks to babies (6). In contrast, all mothers despite their socioeconomic status can afford to provide breast milk for their children simply by keeping their bodies healthy. Given that breastfeeding improves the immunity of children against common diseases and promotes healthy growth and development, mothers should therefore breastfeed their children.

Benefits for Mothers

Mothers should breastfeed their babies because breastfeeding has significant benefits to their health. One of the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers is that it reduces the risk of developing cancers such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Mothers who breastfeed their babies for a longer period have few cases of cancers when compared to mothers who breastfeed their children for a short period. According to Stuebe, “epidemiological data suggest that women who do not breastfeed face higher risks of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease” (226).

Increased risks of cancers and metabolic disorders occur because breastfeeding influences hormonal levels in the body, which consequently are responsible for the occurrence of cancers and metabolic disorders. Lack of breastfeeding causes deregulation of hormones in the body, thus contributing to health problems associated with hormonal imbalances.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast cancer because it stimulates the regulation of hormones in the body. Comparative studies have indicated that women who exclusively breastfeed their babies have lower incidences of breast cancer than the ones who do not breastfeed. Stuebe reports that mothers who breastfeed their babies have a 2.4-fold decrease in the prevalence of premenopausal breast cancer that is common among middle-aged women (224).

Hence, for women to reduce the risk of breast cancer in their lives, they should breastfeed their children as recommended by health care experts. Besides reducing incidences of breast cancer, breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Numerous studies support the assertion that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer. A case-control study established that “women who never breastfed faced a 1.5-fold risk of ovarian cancer, compared with women who breastfed for greater than 18 months” (226). Thus, it implies that women need to breastfeed their babies for the longest period possible so that they reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding is also helpful because it restores the physical and physiological mechanisms of mothers to normal. During pregnancy, the bodies of women usually undergo numerous physical and physiological changes. These changes include increased weight, hormonal variations, expansion of the uterus, and decreased metabolic functions. After delivery, these changes revert to their normal levels, thus making women regain their physiological and physical conditions.

Since pregnant women gain significant weight during pregnancy and the postnatal period, Stuebe asserts that “breastfeeding poses a substantial metabolic burden on mothers, requiring 500 kcal per day to supply milk for an exclusively breastfed infant” (226). The huge metabolic burden compels mothers to metabolize lipids and carbohydrates, thus reducing their accumulation in the body and preventing subsequent overweight and obesity. Hence, given that breastfeeding babies deprive their mothers of considerable nutrients, they reduce their weight. Therefore, mothers should breastfeed their babies so that they can reduce and manage their weights within the normal range.

Emotional bonding between mother and baby is important because it determines the relationships between the mother and the baby. In this view, breastfeeding provides an opportunity where the mother and the baby can emotionally bind each other. Hyde argues that “mothers often report that breastfeeding is an enjoyable and emotionally beneficial experience they share with their infants” (495). Since breastfeeding is a beneficial experience in creating bonds between mothers and their babies, it is very helpful in parenthood. Mothers who bond with their babies have good relationships, which are helpful during parenthood.

If mothers bond with their babies well, they develop a strong love for them; hence, they can provide essential parental needs. Hyde further argues that breastfeeding allows skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the kid, which stimulates the release of both oxytocin and serotonin (506). These hormones are useful in creating a strong emotional bond and motherhood relationships. Consequently, mothers should breastfeed their babies so that they can create strong emotional bonds and essential relationships with their babies.

Another benefit of exclusive breastfeeding of babies is that it delays the recurrence of menses. Women who breastfeed experience delayed recurrence of menses when compared with women who do not breastfeed their babies. Delayed recurrence of menses is beneficial because it acts as a natural family planning method, which helps women who do not access family planning methods in the health care systems. Women who breastfeed their babies for a short period normally start taking contraceptives earlier, when compared with women who exclusively breastfeed their babies for a long period.

Furthermore, delayed recurrence of menses is beneficial to women because it preserves iron and reduces the risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia. Normally, women lose more iron during menses than during breastfeeding, thus, “the net effect is a decreased risk of iron-deficiency anemia in the breastfeeding mother compared with her formula-feeding counterpart” (124). In this view, women should breastfeed their children as a means of family planning and delaying the recurrence of menses and subsequent loss of iron.

Even though breastfeeding has many benefits for mothers, not all women can breastfeed their babies due to illnesses such as HIV/AIDs. In such cases, the use of the formula is the best alternative method of feeding babies. HIV/AIDs is a terminal illness that mothers cannot risk infecting their babies for the sake of gaining benefits associated with breastfeeding. Moreover, other health conditions make mothers unable to produce enough or no milk for their babies.

In this case, the use of the formula is essential in feeding babies so that they can grow and develop well like their counterparts who can breastfeed. It, therefore, implies that the use of the formula is an alternative method of feeding children although it deprives mothers of the benefits of breastfeeding. Therefore, mothers should always breastfeed their babies so that they can improve the physiological, physical, and emotional aspects of their bodies unless some illnesses prohibit them.

Benefits for Society

Breastfeeding has huge benefits for society as it reduces the burden that postnatal care places on the health care systems across the world. When mothers fail to breastfeed their babies, they weaken their immunity, thus predisposing them to numerous infectious diseases that breastfeeding would have prevented. A low rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the United States contributes to high incidences of infections and metabolic disorders among children. Statistics show that, in 2005, 74.2% of mothers breastfeed their babies after delivery, but rapidly decreases to 31.5% during the first three months and 11.9% during the first 6 months (Stuebe 223).

This shows that most women do not breastfeed their children beyond three months, thus increasing their risks of infections and metabolic disorders. According to Weimer, “a minimum of $3.6 billion would be saved if breastfeeding were increased from current levels to those recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General,” (10). The health care system uses billions of dollars in treating diseases that breastfeeding can easily prevent. Therefore, mothers should breastfeed their babies to reduce the financial burden that they place on the health care system and benefit society.

High rates of infant mortality experienced during prenatal care relate to breastfeeding. Mothers who do not exclusively breastfeed increase the risks of infections and metabolic disorders among children, they contribute to high mortality rates. Studies have shown that babies who do not breastfeed have higher mortality rates than the ones who breastfeed (Dermer 125).

Given that breastfeeding improves the immunity of babies and reduces the risks of infections and metabolic disorders, it has an overall impact on reducing infant mortality. Hence, breastfeeding benefits society by reducing infant mortality rates and improving the health status of children, for they have great potential in society. In this view, mothers should breastfeed their babies so that they can reduce the medical burden and decrease infant mortality rates for a healthy society.

Although other interventions of reducing medical costs and infant mortality are equally effective, breastfeeding is the cheapest means. Government can reduce medical costs by providing cheap medications for some diseases such as respiratory infections, but some metabolic disorders such as diabetes are incurable. Additionally, although health care systems can provide effective prenatal care, breastfeeding is a gold standard of feeding babies. Thus, breastfeeding is an indispensable means of reducing medical costs and decreasing high mortality rates due to preventable infections and metabolic disorders.

Conclusion

Breastfeeding has great benefits for the baby, mother, and society because it reduces the risks of infections and metabolic disorders. Extensive studies on the importance of breastfeeding have shown that breastfeeding is a gold standard of feeding babies. Women who do not breastfeed do not only pose health risks to babies but also themselves. Bottle-fed babies usually experience infections such as pneumonia, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Likewise, women who do not breastfeed have a high risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, menopausal complications, as well as diabetes. Such diseases pose a significant burden to the health care systems and society because they increase medical costs and infant mortality rates. Therefore, women should breastfeed their babies so that they can provide significant benefits for babies, mothers, and society.

Works Cited

Clark, Sheila and Timothy Bungum. “The benefits of breastfeeding: An introduction for health educators.” Californian Journal of Health promotion 1.3 (2009): 158-163. Print.

Dermer, Alicia. “A Well-kept secret breastfeeding’s benefits to mothers.” New Beginnings 18.4 (2001): 124-127. Print.

Hyde, Janet. “Breastfeeding, Bonding, and the mother-infant relationships.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 49.4 (2003): 495-517. Print.

Owen, Christopher, Richard Martin, Peter Whincup, George Davey-Smith, Matthew Gillman, and Derek Cook. “The effect of breastfeeding on mean body mass index throughout life: A quantitative review of published and unpublished observational evidence.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82.6 (2005): 1298–1307. Print.

Stuebe, Alison. “The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants.” Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology 2.4 (2009): 222-231. Print.

Weimer, Jon. The economic benefits of breastfeeding: A review and analysis. 2001. Web.

Wen, Li, Louise Baur, Chris Rissel, Garth Alperstein, and Judy Simpson. “Intention to breastfeed and awareness of health recommendations: Findings from first-time mothers in southwest, Australia.” International Breastfeeding Journal 4.9 (2009): 1-9. Print.