In May, we celebrate Spring and the rebirth of Mother Nature, but also Mother’s Day. Mothers (and fathers!) know that when you become a parent, you learn how to be everything: the coach, the nurse, the cook, the hair dresser, the seamstress, the jack of all trades.
When we think of parenting, we generally think of the duties to teach the fundamental values (love, respect, trust, integrity, etc…), life skills, communication skills, and so on. How about nourishment? There are different kinds: emotional, physical, spiritual. The one type we often forget and neglect is the most basic one: food!
I was born and raised in France, where meal time is not just extremely valued, and respected, but it is almost sacred, at least when we compare it to the American standards. The French don’t have drive-thrus, they don’t eat at their desk. They eat slowly and they enjoy good food.
Likewise, breast feeding (your first meals) is the norm, even in public places (think restaurants, public parks, etc…), and new moms get the time they, and their baby, deserve: a full year of maternity leave (a new dad can get up to 3 months).
Breastfeeding offers a list of life-long health benefits for both mommy and baby, making it the best food you can give to your baby by far. Breast milk contains antibodies, or immune molecules, that are transferred to the baby, giving him/her immunities to illnesses that the mother is immune to. The converse is also true — when a newborn is exposed to a germ, he/she will transfer it back to the mother while nursing. The mother’s body will then make antibodies to that particular germ and transfer them back to the baby at the next feeding.
So, what makes breast milk far superior to formula is not just the vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats. It’s also all the substances that may significantly enhance your baby’s gut and brain development. The brain and gut are actually created out of the same type of tissue. During fetal development, one part turns into our central nervous system while the other develops into our enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, which runs from our brain stem down to our abdomen. This is what connects our two “brains” together.
The gut is quite literally the second brain, and they work in tandem, each influencing the other. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa.
Breastfeeding – Good for Baby
Studies have shown that breastfed babies gain added protection against:
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Respiratory- and other types of infections
- Asthma and allergies
- Type 1 & type 2 diabetes
- Bowel diseases such as Chrons disease
Breastfeeding can also help promote cognitive development in your child.
Breastfeeding – Good for Mamma
It also benefits the mother in several ways, including:
- “Natural birth control,” as it suppresses ovulation, making pregnancy less likely
- Reducing your risk of endometrial-, ovarian- and breast cancers
- Easier weight loss
- Promotes the increased release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”, increasing emotional bonding between the mother and child
To all new moms, Happy First Mother’s Day, and to all the seasoned ones, Congratulations!