Sat | Dec 9, 2023

Breast is best - The benefits and joys of breastfeeding

Published:Monday | July 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Expectant mothers and patrons at recent staging of 'A Big Baby Shower'.

The bond between a mother and her child is indisputably one of the strongest connections in nature. This connection is strengthened during the postnatal period of the child's life and throughout the breastfeeding period.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all babies should be exclusively breastfed from birth until six completed months and that breastfeeding should be continued for two years and beyond.

Children's Advocate and mother of four, Diahann Gordon Harrison, said she breastfed each of her children for a minimum one year.

Gordon Harrison, who spoke strongly on the topic recently, expressed why she felt breastfeeding was necessary for the individual development of her children. She not only thinks it's best for the baby, but it also helps mothers in recuperating from the effects of her pregnancy.

"I think it is absolutely the best for the baby and also the mother, as it relates to quality bonding time, and it also helps you to lose the tummy," she noted.

Without hesitation breastfeeding is one of the best decisions that I made, she said, linking it to the health advantages it has had on her children.

"My kids in the first two years of their life, didn't have any major issues. In fact we only went to the pediatrician when it was time for a "shot" (vaccine) or a developmental visit," she noted.




Stephen Robinson, parish nutritionist for Kingston and St. Andrew and National Infant and Young Child Feeding Committee member, said people generally think in the 'now' as it relates to breastfeeding and not of the long term effects.

"Studies have shown that the longer a mother breastfeeds, the less likely her chances of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension. There's also a link with the duration of breastfeeding and the risk of getting these chronic diseases," Robinson noted.

Breastfeeding also protects the mother's health by reducing her risk of uterine bleeding, breast and ovarian cancer and delay a new pregnancy.

Although the figures for Jamaica are not readily available (23.8 per cent exclusive breastfeeding at six months in 2011), the statistics which are presented by the WHO, provides a foundation for this claim.

The Ministry of Health, through the Jamaica Moves programme, is seeking to emphasise the importance of breastfeeding as a strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica.




1. Human milk boosts a baby's immune system, helping to fight viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, including:

- Respiratory tract infections

- Ear infections

- Bacterial meningitis

- Pneumonia

- Urinary tract infections

- Infant diarrhoea

- Common colds and flus

2. Breastfeeding can reduce baby's risk of disease later in life, including:

- Type I and II diabetes

- Hodgkin's disease

- Leukemia

- Obesity

- High blood pressure

- High cholesterol levels

- Crohn's disease

- Ulcerative colitis

- Asthma

- Eczema

3. Breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The longer she breastfeeds, the higher the benefit. In fact, a woman who breastfeeds for eight years has nearly a zero per cent risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding a baby girl actually reduces her lifetime risk of breast cancer by 25 per cent.

4. Breastfeeding saves the family thousands of dollars annually, compared to cost of formula.

5. Breastfeeding helps the mother heal faster in the postpartum, helping her uterus return to pre-pregnancy size faster and lowering overall postpartum blood loss.

6. Breastfeeding can help the mother return to her pre-baby weight. It takes 1,000 calories a day on average to produce breast milk. Women are advised to consume an extra 500 calories a day, and the body dips into reserves it built up in pregnancy to make the rest.

7. Producing breast milk consumes 25 per cent of the body's energy; the brain only uses 20 per cent by comparison.

8. On average, babies remove 67 per cent of the milk the mother has available - they eat until fullness, not until the breast is emptied.

9. Almost 75 per cent of all moms produce more milk in their right breast, whether they are right- or left- handed.

10. The mother's body is constantly making the perfect milk for baby. Milk changes its nutritional profile as baby grows (milk made for a three-month-old is different than for a nine-month-old). Milk can even change day to day - for example, water content may increase during times of hot weather and baby-sickness to provide extra hydration.

11. Human milk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies. Breastfeeding also calms the mother and helps her bond to baby.

12. Breastfed infants are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

13. The mother's breasts can detect even a one degree fluctuation in her baby's body temperature and adjust accordingly to heat up or cool down as needed. This is one reason skin-to-skin contact in the early days is so crucial.

14. Breastfeeding reduces the baby's risk of cavities later on and may lower the chance they will need braces as kids.

15. Breastfeeding mothers sleep on average 45 minutes more a night, compared to those who formula feed.