Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding

Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding

The advent of technology has paved the way for the invention of a large number of products for newborn kids. These products have also allowed the parents to rest more, something that is desperately needed by new parents. However, one necessity of children that cannot be fulfilled by any machine is the need to be breastfed. Breastfeeding is the act of feeding newborns or young children with milk from the mother’s breast. It has various advantages and disadvantages, both for the mother and the kid.

HOW LONG IS BREASTFEEDING NEEDED?

Doctors recommend that breastfeeding begin within an hour of the baby’s birth. There is no set upper limit for breastfeeding. The child can be breastfed for as long as required. In the beginning, babies nurse (another name for breastfeeding) roughly every two to three hours for ten to fifteen minutes on each breast. As the child grows up, the frequency of breastfeeding reduces.

Various doctors and international organizations, including World Health Organization, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. This means that breast milk is the only source of nutrients for the child. The baby should not be fed any other food or beverage.

HOW POPULAR IS BREASTFEEDING?

Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for the child and hence, is practiced all over the world. However, in recent times, mothers have started switching to baby formula pretty early. This might be due to personal preference, or because of certain limitations to breastfeeding.

So, are mothers switching over from breastfeeding as a personal choice or is there a legitimate reason?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding burns between 500-600 calories a day.

Let’s find out.

Advantages of Breastfeeding

Saves Time and Money

Breastfeeding is done with a very simple process. Unlike formula, there is no calculation, no additional equipment required. Hence, there is no need to clean and sterilize bottles. Additionally, it allows the child to be fed on-the-go without having to carry bottles and then finding a way to warm them up. It also eliminates the cost of formula.

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Lowers Risk of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression, which is a widespread problem among new mothers, can be prevented (to some extent) by breastfeeding.  There are various hormonal changes caused by breastfeeding that encourage maternal caregiving and bonding. One of them is oxytocin. It is considered to be an anti-anxiety hormone, and it affects regions of the brain promoting nurturing and relaxation. Thus, it encourages bonding. However, mothers who experience postpartum depression are likely to experience troubles while nursing. They are also likely to breastfeed for a shorter duration is they succeed in doing so.

Promotes Healthy Weight Gain

Studies have proved that babies who are breastfed have a lower rate of being obese in their childhood. As compared to formula-fed babies, obesity rates are 15–30% lower in breastfed babies. Although, this rate is also affected by the amount of time that the baby is breastfed. Risk of future obesity is reduced by 4% by each month of breastfeeding. Breast milk also leads to an increase in the amount of leptin in the body. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage. This helps the body regulate its milk intake, which helps to develop healthy eating patterns in the future. This is because they’re good at eating only until they’ve satisfied their hunger.

Helps Uterus Contract

During pregnancy, the uterus expands by a considerable amount. All throughout the pregnancy, the body releases oxytocin to make this expansion easier. After delivery, it goes through a process called involution which allows it to return to its original size. Breastfeeding increases the secretion of oxytocin, which makes the contraction of the uterus easier.

Reduced Risk of Disease

Breastfeeding, when exclusive, has the capability to protect the child from a variety of diseases, such as Respiratory tract infections, Gut infections, Sudden infant death syndrome, Diabetes, etc. Breastfeeding for 6 months or longer is linked with a 15–20% reduction in the risk of childhood leukaemia. Nursing can also reduce the severity of these diseases, along with the chances of their contraction.

Sufficient Nutrition

Breast milk can prove to be an ideal source of nutrition for the child. It can provide all nutrients that a newborn’s body needs, except for Vitamin D. Unless the mother has a very high intake, breast milk cannot provide enough. The composition and quantity of the breast milk produced also changes according to the child’s needs.

Disadvantages of Breastfeeding

Always On Call

If breast milk is the only food that the child is consuming, it can become stressful for the mother. The mother would have to be available whenever the child needs to be fed, irrespective of the time. This can be dealt with by using a breast pumping machine, which allows the milk to be stored in bottles and then used whenever needed. However, pumping is not a common practice in most developing countries.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
Breast milk contains stem cells which go on to become other body cell types like brain, heart, kidney, or bone tissue.

Imposes Limits

The choice to breastfeed also comes with the responsibility to take care of what goes into the mother’s body. Whatever the mother consumes is passed on to the kid through the milk. This doesn’t just lead to dietary restrictions. For many, it means drastic changes to their lifestyles. Small amounts of alcohol or caffeine do not make a difference, but should still be consumed with caution. This also means that mothers on medication for postpartum depression or any other illness can pass on their medications to the child.

Can Be Discouraging

Although studies have shown that newborns enjoy consuming breast milk, they don’t necessarily take to it immediately. Many babies take time to latch (start sucking) to the breast, which can prove to be saddening for mothers. It can lead to a sense of distance from the child.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and postpartum depression.

Inconvenient

In societies where modesty is considered to be a woman’s most important trait, it can be difficult for mothers to breastfeed when they need to. If out in public, they might have to go to difficult lengths to be able to nurse. These might include having to go to secluded areas, reducing the number of times they go out, and more. However, this does not mean that breastfeeding as a practice should be stopped or women should be made to do it in the confines of their homes. Breastfeeding is an extremely natural process, and done by almost every mother. This means that the public perception of breastfeeding and the idea of “immodesty” needs to be challenged.

Can Lead To Problems

Breastfeeding might be incredibly beneficial for the child, but it can sometimes lead to problems for the mother. It can lead to sore nipples. Some nipple tenderness is normal in the beginning. However, very sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples are symbolic of a deeper problem. It can also lead to breast engorgement (enlargement) or plugged nipple ducts. Serious problems such as mastitis, i.e. swelling or inflammation of the breast tissue, and thrush are also possible consequences. Thrush is a yeast infection that can appear on the mother’s nipples and in the baby’s mouth.

Uneven Distribution of Work

Breastfeeding can be performed by just one parent in the family. It is the mother in heterosexual relationships and the birth mother in non-heterosexual relationships. What this does is that it puts an additional burden on one of the parents. This is especially bad in heterosexual relationships in conservative societies. The mother has to be the sole caregiver of the child, with the father being mostly or entirely absent. Thus, this further increases the disparity in the work that each parent has to perform. However, this can be considered to be a benefit by some in terms of it being an opportunity to further bond with the child.

Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding

PROS

CONS

Saves time and money  

Always on call  

Lowers risk of postpartum depression  

Imposes limits  

Promotes healthy weight gain

Can be discouraging  

Helps uterus contract  

Inconvenient  

Reduced risk of disease  

Can lead to problems  

Sufficient nutrition  

Uneven Distribution of Work

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Rhythm Bhatia