A mother's emotional health can positively benefit from the relationship she has with her baby while breast-feeding. Picture: Cindy Waxa African News Agency (ANA)
Many medical experts strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively for six months.

Added to this, breastfeeding should continue for at least a year while you add other foods to your baby’s diet after six months of age.

It’s recommended that it’s at this time that vegetables, grains, fruits and proteins should be introduced to your little one.

Cath Day, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, points out: “There’s a vast body of scientific research that has shown that breast-feeding, as exclusive nutrition in the first six months and then as a supplementary food for two years and beyond, also protects and benefits the physical health of the mother, while impacting positively on her emotional well-being as she forms the essential bond with her new child.

“It’s clearly in the interests of employers to protect, promote and support women during the times when they are breast-feeding because companies need their employees to be healthy and optimally productive,” says Day. While it is advised by many experts, making the decision to breast-feed is a personal matter.

Many mothers get fulfillment and joy from the physical and emotional communion they experience with their babies during breastfeeding.

This week (August 1 to 7) is observed as World Breastfeeding Week, and with its 2019 theme “Empower Parents, Enable Breast-feeding”, the World Alliance for Breast-feeding Action is focusing on how we shift public and private attitudes to be appropriately supportive of the optimal nutrition for babies. The promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding is described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the top child survival strategies, with the ability to decrease infant deaths by 13%.

According to the WHO, 37% of deaths in children under five years old are a result of malnutrition.

Breastfeeding is a measure to protect a baby from developing allergies, it boosts intelligence, lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and can also reduce the mother’s stress level and the risk of postpartum depression.

Emma Numanoglu, a registered nurse and midwife, says the main breast-feeding challenges are sore nipples, usually due to a shallow latch and incorrect positioning, perceived low milk supply, engorgement, going back to work early with no support or place to express, exhaustion, poor or conflicting advice, and lack of confidence. Numanoglu says the benefits of breast-feeding go beyond those of solely benefiting your baby.

The positive short-term and long-term effects of breastfeeding for mothers are evident, and should be considered as additional reasons to choose to breast feed.

Added to that, a mother’s emotional health can positively benefit from the relationship she has with her baby while she is breast-feeding. This connection can result in lessened anxiety, and a stronger connection with her baby.