By Ericka Moore, Momivate's Director of Energy (Eating, Exercise, and Sleep)
It’s not a coincidence that this blog is addressing the importance of breast milk during the month of March. March 8th is International Women’s Day and March 3 is IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Day. Both days commemorate women’s achievements—and why not spend a moment discussing breast milk? It is a wonderful accomplishment for a mother to be able to provide this gift for her baby. Granted, it is easier for some mothers than others. There is also a social, political, economic undercurrent to the very act of providing breast milk—which is a discussion for another day. I just want to go back to basics and focus on the awesomeness of breast milk.
Why is breast milk important?
I know there is a ton of information on breastfeeding from a variety of sources. Which positions are best? What pump to use? Should I use a pump? How do you know baby is getting enough milk? It can be overwhelming at times to figure out who or what to listen to.
Why is there an emphasis on feeding your child breast milk? What’s so great about it? When I nursed my first child, I didn’t have this information. I didn’t participate in a breastfeeding class because I thought I could wing it and ask for help when needed. Knowing what I know now, I highly suggest taking a breastfeeding class and speaking to an experienced Mom who has nursed her own child.
Simply put, breast milk is made specifically for humans. It’s your baby’s first food. It contains the perfect blend of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and antibodies. Breast milk is easily digestible and is specifically made for the needs of your baby; it is a living item. In other words, breastmilk operates like an attendant at your local drive-through restaurant. When a baby latches to a breast, messages from his/her saliva are transmitted to the mother and the mother’s body adjusts the components of the breast milk for that session. In fact, the composition of breast milk varies throughout the day, depending on the needs of the baby. If a baby needs more carbs during the morning and more fat during the afternoon, no problem! Mom is able to produce the right combination for her child.
This process is also used when making antibodies to combat illnesses. A baby can communicate his/her needs for specific antibodies through saliva. Mom also participates in this process. When a mother encounters various pathogens in her environment, she immediately begins producing antibodies and other immune factors to protect the baby from illness. This is the reason babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and other illnesses.
Another plus to providing breast milk for your child is early exposure to Mom’s diet. When breastfeeding, mother’s milk carries traces of food flavor which introduces and trains her child to appreciate variety. So, in essence, you are already training your child to appreciate fruits and veggies. That sounds fantastic to me. Breast milk is a glorious gift.
Mothers—and those who support them in giving this gift—should be thanked. Not just on their days of celebration, but every day!
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