So first, let’s start with what makes breast milk so special… Did you know your breast milk changes as your baby grows? It has just the right combination of fats, protein and nutrients needed for your baby at each stage of development!
After a mother gives birth there are three types of milk produced:
- Shortly after delivery the substance that is produced is called colostrum which is a blend of proteins, vitamins and minerals which coats the baby’s intestines to aid in building a strong immune system for the baby, preparing it to produce antibodies to fight harmful bacteria, viruses, allergies and digestive troubles.
- After the body has produced colostrum the mother produces transitional milk, typically after 3-4 days. Transitional milk has less of the immunoglobulins than colostrum does, but it is packed full of lactose, fat and calories which help boost baby’s weight.
- The next and final type of milk that is produced is known as mature milk. Breastfeeding mothers typically start producing mature milk between 10 days and two weeks after delivery. Mature milk is full of all of the nutrients and fat that a baby needs to support both their physical and mental development.
Some of the benefits babies have from breastfeeding include:
- It’s nourishing, it is designed perfectly for a baby’s digestive system with micronutrients that are easily absorb. Unlike formula the composition of breastmilk changes in response to the baby’s needs.
- Fights infections, with each feeding the baby receives antibodies from their mother that assist in building their immunity to common colds and infections.
- Aids in digestion, newborns that are breastfed typically have less constipation and/or diarrhea in comparison to newborns who are formula-fed.
- Helps prepare for introducing other food. Breastmilk contains flavors of the food the mother consumes, this shows to have a correlation to babies being more apt to try new foods compared to formula-fed babies.
- Strengthening the mouth. The materials that bottle nipples are made of do not have the consistency or flow of a mothers nipples. Babies who are breastfed have to work harder to have each meal which strengthens their jaw, palate and gums and aids in oral development.
- Boosts IQ! Numerous studies have shown that breastfed babies have an increase in their IQ and a larger brain size in comparison to babies fed formula.
Some of the benefits mothers receive from breastfeeding include:
- Postpartum recovery. The act of breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps the uterus shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding also burns calories (approx. 300 – 500 every day), this can result in helping mothers loose their baby weight faster.
- Convenience! Breastfeeding means there is less to travel around with every time you leave the house, less work preparing bottles, warming them up and sanitizing them and when the baby wakes in the night for a feed there are no trips back and forth to the kitchen, you can stay right there in bed.
- Period-free! Breastfeeding mothers can enjoy an extended time without their period. Breastfeeding mothers typically start ovulating 4 – 6 months after giving birth, but some breastfeeding mothers don’t start ovulating for up to 18 months after giving birth!
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes.
Breastfeeding creates both a physical and emotional connection between mother and baby which is incredible for bonding. BUT, at the end of the day, what’s most important is ensuring that both mom and baby are healthy! It is not an all-or-nothing proposition, if breastfeeding isn’t happening for you, talk to your doctor about whether you should consider supplementing with formula or a formula-feeding. It’s extremely important to remember that what a baby really needs is their mother’s love & attention and ensuring that they get all of the necessary nutrients, rest and bonding for their development.
Resources in Cayman for breastfeeding:
Whether you’re an expectant mother, or have recently given birth to your baby, speak with your doctor to learn about the various support systems available to you on your breastfeeding journey. There are many resources available to breastfeeding mothers in Cayman including through the Cayman Islands Breast Feeding Support Group, free postnatal care and home visits through the Women’s Health Clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital and services offered by the Health Services Authority at five locations across Grand Cayman.