Breastfeeding, or nursing, is the practice of feeding your baby natural breast milk directly from your breast. Medical professionals recommend breastfeeding a baby for the first six months of their life as the nutritional value of breast milk is the ideal vitamin mix for infants. Bloom and Momentum Health4Me explain more about the benefits of breastfeeding, along with breastfeeding tips and how to celebrate the upcoming World Breastfeeding Week.
Complementary read: Health4Me health insurance with maternity cover – what to expect from our maternity benefits.
World Breastfeeding Week Celebrations
World Breastfeeding Week is an annual event organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and is recognised in the first week of August. The event aims to celebrate breastfeeding and to promote and educate the public and communities about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Some of the topics covered during World Breastfeeding Week include Support for Working Mothers, Nutrition and Breastfeeding Training. There are now more than 170 countries actively observing the event. Show your support for this worthy cause by visiting the WABA website to purchase merchandise or pledge a donation. Alternatively, you can check with your local healthcare associations to start a local initiative in your area.
Breastfeeding benefits for mother and baby
Breastfeeding is an excellent bonding experience for mother and child. The process offers bountiful short-term and long-term benefits for both the mother and child’s health and well-being. Benefits for the baby include:
- Nutritional value. Breast milk offers the ideal vitamin mix for babies and it’s easily digestible.
- Antibodies and immunity building. Breast milk provides the infant with much-needed antibodies, like colostrum. This will help develop the baby’s immune system so they can fight off viruses and bacteria.
- Disease prevention. There are studies that show evidence that breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months will help reduce the risk of certain diseases, like respiratory tract infections or digestive/gut infections.
- Healthy weight gain. Breast milk promotes healthy weight in babies. It’s also known to help prevent obesity in later years because breastfed babies learn how to self-regulate their nutritional intake.
Some of the breastfeeding benefits for mothers include:
- Contraction of the uterus. The uterus expands considerably during pregnancy but returns to its normal size after the birthing process. To do so, oxytocin is required and breastfeeding stimulates the production of this hormone.
- Reduces the risk of depression. Studies have shown that women who breastfeed tend to suffer less from postpartum depression than those who do not.
- Reduces the risk of certain diseases. Breastfeeding provides a woman with long-term protection against the risk of certain types of disease development, like cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Saving time and money. The breast is readily available and free. This means you don’t have to spend time mixing formulas or shelling out a fortune each week for the baby’s meals.
Follow a breastfeeding diet for best results
It goes without saying that the quality of breast milk will depend on the mother’s diet. Health insurance providers and medical professionals recommend a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein and fibre. It’s especially important to prioritise certain vitamins if you are breastfeeding. Some of the more important ones to consider are:
- Vitamin D, found in oily fish like sardines and fortified foods
- Choline, found in eggs and liver
- Vitamin B1, which is found in seeds, nuts and beans
- Vitamin B2, found in cheese, red meat and nuts
- Vitamin B6 is found in bananas, potatoes and poultry
- Vitamin B12, which is found in yoghurt and shellfish
- Vitamin A, which is found in leafy green vegetables and carrots
- Iodine, found in milk, avocados and lentils
- Zinc, found in dairy products, nuts and beans
- Calcium, which is found in dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese
- Iron, found in red meat, beans and poultry
If you’re having trouble adding any of these vitamin-rich foods to your diet, we suggest taking a supplement, like a multivitamin. You should also stay well-hydrated and drink plenty of water. There are some foods and substances that a breastfeeding mom should definitely avoid as they could negatively affect your baby’s health or well-being. These include:
- Alcohol. Healthcare professionals advise against drinking alcohol during breastfeeding because the chemical is transferable into the baby’s system. Furthermore, babies are unable to metabolise alcohol at the same rate as adults.
- Caffeine. It’s recommended to limit one’s caffeine intake, which is also transferable to the baby. Babies metabolise caffeine at a much slower rate and it can affect their sleeping patterns and sleep quality.
When should you not breastfeed?
There are some medical conditions or physical instances that might make breastfeeding unsuitable because breast milk could contain chemicals or additives that might harm your baby. These include:
- If you are HIV positive as you can pass the virus onto your baby through breastfeeding
- If you are taking certain prescription medications, like those for Parkinson’s Disease
- You have active tuberculosis
- You are receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer
- You are an active drug user
- If you have recently ingested alcohol you will need to wait for the alcohol to pass through your system before breastfeeding
Breastfeeding support services in South Africa
There are a number of free breastfeeding support services in South Africa that you can reach out to should you need help or advice about breastfeeding. These include:
- La Leche League. A mother-to-mother support service for breastfeeding moms. They’re happy to answer questions you may have about breastfeeding techniques or methods.
- Lactation Consultants of South Africa. This is a professional association made up of healthcare practitioners who provide specialist knowledge and information about breastfeeding.
- International Lactation Consultant Association is also a professional body of expert consultants who can be called upon to offer assistance in the area of breastfeeding, especially if you are experiencing difficulties.
- Baby Yum Yum, a leading parent portal offers a wealth of information for new moms looking for breastfeeding advice. Baby Yum Yum Maternity benefits are available for Momentum Health4Me health insurance plans.
Health insurance for women with maternity cover
Momentum Health4Me provides health insurance maternity benefits with all their plans. This includes antenatal GP visits at a Momentum CareCross Network GP, two 2D foetal growth scans per member per pregnancy and antenatal pathology tests as prescribed by your network GP. You will also receive access to support during and after your pregnancy in the form of Hello Doctor.
Best health insurance option in South Africa with Bloom
Get health insurance cover with maternity benefits from Momentum Health4Me. Entry-level options start at just R517 per member per month.
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