Breastfeeding refers to the general practice of feeding babies milk, normally from the mother’s breast. The practice is also known as nursing, and the decision on how to breastfeed and duration is a personal matter of the mother. However, the mother’s choice of breastfeeding method and time is sometimes influenced by cultural factors and family members’ opinions and friends. This paper focuses on the importance of breastfeeding to both the baby and the mother: the milk provides necessary body nutrients, boosts the IQ levels of infants, helps in birth spacing, ensures faster recovery of mothers, and facilitates environmental protection. In addition, the essay focuses on the effect of cultural beliefs on breastfeeding.
Medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have established that breast milk gives necessary nutrition to the infant. It contains a perfect combination of protein, fat, and vitamins, which are basic needs for children’s growth (MacVicar et al., 2018). The mix is provided in the simplest form that infants can digest. The milk also contains necessary antibodies against diseases and viruses affecting infants. Brahm and Valdés (2017) research has established that babies who are put under exclusive six months of breast milk are less likely to have a respiratory illness, ear infections, alongside other complications.
Breast milk has been linked to high IQ levels in later childhood. Breastfeeding is known to help in brain formation, hence creating room required for mental development. Research done to compare babies subjected to six months of breast milk and others whose feeding was terminated before the end of the minimum period has been used to support the claim (Wood & Qureshi, 2017). Infant under six months of feeding proved to have higher intelligence levels than their counterparts (Brahm & Valdés, 2017). In addition, the skin-to-skin touches, physical nearness, and eye contact help establish a strong bond between the mother and the infant. Sustained breastfeeding in most industrialized countries is due to general beliefs that the practice creates a close connection between the child and the mother. Children continue to recall the bond even behold adolescence, hence easing challenges of the child-mother relationship. On the other hand, proper breastfeeding helps the infant gain the right weight and be strong, enabling the baby to be active and make necessary movements and bows.
The breastfeeding period is also seen to have an exclusive impact on birth spacing and children’s survival. A perfect example of this was in Yemen, where mothers practiced a combination of both bottle and breastfeeding (Wood & Qureshi, 2017). In this survey, it is established that birth spacing was shorter than where bottle-feeding was practiced. In addition to close children spacing, the mortality rate was higher among closely spread out infants. For this reason, a longer breastfeeding period provides a solution for required children’s spacing, hence reducing children’s mortality rates.
Moreover, breastfeeding is good for mothers’ health as they tend to recover from childbirth quicker than their counterparts who refrain from nursing. The oxytocin hormone produced during infant feeding helps restore the uterus to its normal size faster, reducing cases of postpartum bleeding. Mothers also tend to experience joy and fulfillment derived from emotional and physical experiences with their children (MacVicar et al., 2018). The feeling is intensified through the release of Oxytocin and Prolactin hormones. The release of Prolactin helps create a nurturing and peaceful sensation that enables the mother to concentrate on her infant. On the other hand, Oxytocin helps promote the required sense of attachment and friendship between the two.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial to both society and the environment: it is cheaper than bottle-feeding. It helps avoid medical bills because the baby is well equipped to fight off infections and diseases. Breastfeeding mother and their babies are at lower danger of particular illnesses, hence saving the cost of the wide health care system (Holcomb, 2017). On the other hand, breastfeeding helps to reduce the cost of energy, raw materials, and other resources used in making formula milk. The practice also helps to reduce global environmental pollution due to the lack of solid waste disposal.
Despite the above gains brought about by breastfeeding, some tend to ignore the practice and the required duration, while others embrace it depending on the cultural orientation of mothers. Some perceived characteristics such as mother’s milk are likely to harm the infant are seen as sources of anguish for the mother. Many women hence tend to cease breastfeeding to avoid hurting their infants. Some cultures, especially among the Hispanic population, hold that abdominal cramps are easily moved from mother to child through breastfeeding. This belief brings forth the idea that breastfeeding involves the transfer of nutrients from the mother to the infant and sharing physical pain (Shin et al., 2018). Because abdominal cramping is universal, the belief creates a significant obstruction to breastfeeding. As a result, proper understanding and addressing of this belief before discharging mothers from a hospital is essential to ensure their chances of successful breastfeeding.
Given the above cultural beliefs on breastfeeding, it is essential to realize that depending on mothers’ traditional orientation, they are likely to hold on to various beliefs that might discourage them from breastfeeding. Therefore, clinicians are charged with the responsibility of eliciting such dogmas, especially during clinical encounters. Such efforts will help to reassure mothers and encourage them to exercise successful breastfeeding (Holcomb, 2017). International and local institutions are also required to consider such beliefs while designing their programs.
Stressing on the breastfeeding importance can be a useful component in designing a nursing program. However, this should be executed carefully to ensure mothers are not subjected to unnecessary pressure to breastfeed. To start with, decision-makers and leaders need to ensure proper arrangements are enacted to cater to breastfeeding mothers (Brahm & Valdés, 2017). The result of good breastfeeding can be achieved by giving adequate attention to the care of the mother. Mothers wishing to exercise exclusive breastfeeding need to be relieved from work and nutrition burdens that stand on their path. For this reason, everyone in society is charged with providing necessary support to breastfeeding mothers. As seen in most communities, the general perception against these demands indicates the need to be enlightened on the benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and the infant.
It is settled that no single formula milk is likely to replace the nutrient and properties of breast milk irrespective of minerals and other supplement addition. In simple terms, human milk carries both immunological and developmental gains for infants alongside emotional and mental advantages to the mother. In addition, breastfeeding holds immeasurable gains for the surroundings and the society at large. Considering that health care contributes significantly to the mother’s breastfeeding decision, they must understand local beliefs that are likely to affect breastfeeding. Proper knowledge of the existing dogmas will enable them to provide desirable advice to mothers. However, breastfeeding is not the only means available as some mothers tend to prefer partial feeding while others combine it with formula milk, depending on the mother’s needs.
Brahm, P., & Valdés, V. (2017). The benefits of breastfeeding and associated risks of replacement with baby formulas. Revista Chilena de Pediatria, 88(1), 7-14.
Holcomb, J. (2017). Resisting guilt: Mothers’ breastfeeding intentions and formula use. Sociological Focus, 50(4), 361-374. Web.
MacVicar, S., Humphrey, T., & Forbes‐McKay, K. E. (2018). Breastfeeding and the substance‐exposed mother and baby. Birth, 45(4), 450-458. Web.
Shin, C. N., Reifsnider, E., McClain, D., Jeong, M., McCormick, D. P., & Moramarco, M. (2018). Acculturation, cultural values, and breastfeeding in overweight or obese, low-income, Hispanic women at 1 month postpartum. Journal of Human Lactation, 34(2), 358-364. Web.
Wood, K. M., & Qureshi, K. (2017). Facilitators and barriers for successful breastfeeding among migrant Chuukese mothers on Guam. SAGE Open Nursing, 3, Web.