Breast Milk is nature's ideal nutrition for infants. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective strategies to ensure the health and survival of a kid. Breastfeeding is an instinctive and natural act, but it is also a skill that can be learned on a daily basis. Breastfeeding is a mother’s way of showing love for her child.
Breastfeeding has an important function in strengthening the relationship between the newborn and the mother. Breastfeeding is without a doubt the “gold standard” nutritional source in the first months of postnatal life in humans. Breastfeeding is not only a meal at the breast; research reveals that it has important and far-reaching impacts on cognition, behaviour, and mental health in children and mothers, in addition to being a crucial source of sustenance for the newborn. Many mothers describe feeling peaceful and tranquil, which helps them bond with their infants. Others claim to feel ecstasy, a nursing high caused by the release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin in response to the infant sucking. Studies show that Breastfeeding appears to improve both the mother's and the child's mental health.
How does breastfeeding affect a mother’s mental health?
Impact of breastfeeding on affect, mood and stress in mothers
Breastfeeding mothers are found to have reduced anxiety levels, a positive mood and low stress levels compared to formula feeding mothers. Breastfeeding also releases a happy hormone (oxytocin) in the mothers body which keeps her in a positive mood.
Breastfeeding and bonding between mother and child
Breastfeeding facilitates maternal sensitivity and secures attachment between mother and child. Mothers who breastfeed, tend to touch their infants more and spend more time with them as well. This makes the infant more responsive to them.
Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression
It is thought that women who stop nursing owing to physical problems or pain are more likely to suffer from Postpartum Depression and have high stress levels. This has a detrimental influence on their moods and affect as well.
Effects of breastfeeding on an infant
Breastfeeding and cognitive outcomes in infants
It has been observed that infants with prolonged duration of breastfeeding showed improved problem-solving abilities in them when they grew up to become adolescents. Studies done have shown that at age 5, children who were breastfed for at least 6 months as infants had the highest verbal intelligence scores, while children who were never breastfed had the lowest scores. According to some research, Breastfeeding should begin shortly after delivery, to reduce the chance of cognitive impairment in infants.
Impact of nursing on the cognitive, social, and mental development of children
Breastfeeding has been linked to better cognitive ability, accelerated brain growth, and a lower likelihood of antisocial behaviour and abnormal social development, including Anti-Social Disorder.
Public Breastfeeding in India - Shame or not?
It is time we stop shaming mothers who choose to feed their babies in the public. They do not have an option. A baby's urge for hunger is normal and acceptable. In India, as westernization has taken up, it is easier to breastfeed publicly in rural areas than western areas which is found to be surprising. Women in the village find it easy to breastfeed in between community meetings which is not the case in urban India. Women in metropolitan India are sexualized when nursing in public, making it an unpleasant experience. Breasts are seen as sex objects, and because sex is considered a taboo and is not openly discussed, public nursing is deemed inappropriate. This sexuliasing has an impact on the mother's mental health, causing her to question herself. When you think about it, public nursing is just as normal as adult dining in public.
Breastfeeding is a natural process and should be treated as one. As though, there are many people who treat it in a normal way, and the mothers are grateful for their understanding. There are also some who fail to understand the pure relationship between a mother and her child and view breastfeeding as a private activity. A woman is a human before she is a mother and does not deserve to be bullied for fulfilling her natural responsibility.
In conclusion, to all the new mothers reading this- “Never be afraid to nurse in public, if people don’t see it, it will never be normalized.”