Breastfeeding is undoubtedly the gold standard food source in the first month of postnatal life. Breastfeeding is not simply a meal from the breast but has significant and far-reaching effects on children's and mothers' cognition, behaviour and mental health.
Breastfeeding greatly impacts the psychological functioning of both mother and child. Oxytocin, a chemical released while breastfeeding, further enhances feelings of affection between the mother and your child. For the mother, breastfeeding is associated with better mental health, reduced physiological and social stress along with a decline in symptoms of anxiety and depression. On World Breastfeeding Month, experts share the impact of breastfeeding on the mental health of both mother and infant.
Also read: Why women’s mental health is often neglected
1. Physical health
Breastfeeding has several positive physical effects on women, including reducing their risk of breast and ovarian cancer and promoting faster weight loss, among other things.
2. Reduce the chances of depression and regulates maternal mood
Mothers giving exclusive feeding of their own milk have significantly lower perceived stress & postpartum depression in the first and third months of lactation. It also helps regulate maternal mood
3. Could reduce the risk of infant death
Multiple studies indicate that infants who are breastfed are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
4. Inflammation Levels
Breastfeeding can help lower the mother's inflammation levels. Lower inflammation levels also lower the risk of diseases.
5. Better Sleep
One of the biggest and may be the most surprising psychological benefits of breastfeeding is better sleep. In fact, mothers who only breastfeed may find that they fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer and sleep more deeply due to the release of hormones like prolactin and oxytocin
6. Makes baby happier
Breastfeeding can also support a baby's emotional wellness. Breastfeed babies cry less overall.
7. Helps deepen the bond between mother and child
Breastfeeding creates a bonding experience between mother and child because it promotes skin-to-skin contact and leads to more holding and affectionate stroking during the first year of life.
8. Helps the neurodevelopment of the infant
Breastmilk significantly improves neurodevelopment and cognitive functions in infants. It is also shown to increase the growth of white matter in a baby's brain by 20% to 30%.
Also read: When you feel like an imposter at work
9. Regulates intelligence of the infant
Breastfed children score better on intelligence tests
10. Better physical health of infants
Breastfed babies are also less likely to be overweight or obese and develop diabetes later in life. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life are also less likely to have respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and recurrent bouts of diarrhoea.
(Inputs by Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Dr Usha Priyambada and Dr Sarita Sharma)