Species of the mammalian kingdom and humans have breast fed over millions of years. In ancient times, breast milk was considered sacred and essential for the survival of the infant. A mother was required to nurse her child, but if maternal milk was not available or insufficient, wet nurses were employed.
Mythology has several references to breastfeeding and wet nurses. Indian, Greek, Babylonian, and Egyptian mythologies are replete with these stories. We are all familiar with Yashoda who fed Lord Krishna while his mother Devaki was in prison. And then of course there is the story of Putana who was sent to kill Lord Krishna with her poisoned milk.
Over time the popularity of wet nurses has declined particularly due to the transmission of diseases, especially syphilis—but the sentiment still remains the same. Breast milk is vital to the baby’s growth.
While everybody knows that breastfeeding has several benefits for the baby, what is less well-known is that it has many benefits for the mother as well. Wondering what they are? Well, read on…
It builds the bond between mother and child
The physical and emotional bonding between mother and child is increased thanks to breastfeeding. It promotes more skin-to-skin contact, more holding and stroking.
It has been postulated that affectionate bonding during the first years of life helps reduce social and behavioural problems in both children and adults. Additionally, it also lessens the risk of postpartum depression.
It helps mothers understand their infants better
Breastfeeding mothers are more aware of their infant’s behaviour and learn to read their cues. Babies also learn to trust their caregivers. This helps in shaping the infant’s early behaviour.
Breastfeeding can relieve stress in new mothers
Breastfeeding produces the hormones oxytocin and prolactin that promote stress reduction and positive feelings in the nursing mother. Moreover, breastfed babies cry less overall and have fewer incidences of childhood illness.
It makes travelling with a baby easier
Since breast milk is always clean and at the right temperature, you don’t need to carry ten bags equipped with milk, bottles, and so on.
It helps nursing mothers lose weight
Nursing mothers lose weight faster after birth, burning about 500 extra calories a day to build and maintain a milk supply.
Breastfeeding is also great for a mother’s newly-stretched out uterus
Nursing a baby facilitates uterine contractions thus enabling the uterus to return to its normal size. Moreover, breastfeeding also reduces postpartum bleeding due to the production of oxytocin which aids the contraction of the uterus.
It reduces the risk of many ailments
Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop:
- Diabetes mellitus or type-2 diabetes
- Breast cancer. About 20,000 maternal deaths per year could be averted if breast feeding rates were increased
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Myocardial infarction or heart attack
- Hyperlipidemia or high levels of lipids in the blood stream
- Ovarian cancer
So as they, breast is best–both for the baby and her mother!