Posted by: Admin | June 14, 2011

My Thoughts on Breastfeeding and Childhood Illnesses

Breastfeeding has many advantages for a child’s health and emotional development. This is not an hypothesis – it is a fact! But it does not mean the child will never be sick. In fact, children need to be in contact with illnesses to develop their immune system. When a baby is born, he has his mother’s antibodies until he develops his own. Then, whenever he comes in contact with a virus or a bacteria, his body makes antibodies to fight it off. The antibodies act on the illness immediately. In fact, it is when all these antibodies activate themselves that they heat up the body and the child gets a fever. It can be scary, but a fever is actually a good thing so long as it stays within normal limits. The antibodies created are there to stay, and will provide protection for all the child’s life.

Breastfeeding has a significant role to play in this process, as breastmilk helps the child’s immune system in two very important ways: 1) It also contains antibodies, so when you breastfeed your child, you immediately help him fight off illnesses until his own body can do it; and 2) It contains factors that will increase your child’s response to the illness, helping his own body to make more antibodies.

I have four children, so I have seen my share of fevers, runny noses, sore throats, and rashes of all kinds, and I have had a lot of cleaning up to do in the middle of the night. Just two weeks ago, I was up cleaning bed sheets and trying to chase the nauseating smell of gastro out of the house. Funny how it seems to live in our noses for a couple of hours, even after you have washed everything!!!

Apart from the fact that breastfeeding protects our children against some chronic illnesses and lightens the severity of gastroenteritis, colds and childhood illnesses, it has another benefit we never see mentioned in articles or books: it soothes sadness, frustrations and bumps! It is a natural pain killer. As I have always been a breastfeeding mother, I think I always took this for granted. As soon as my child was feeling under the weather or hurt herself, it was so easy to just hold her in my arms and breastfeed. Usually, this is the only thing they want to do: stay cuddled and drink mommy’s milk. So breastfeeding comes in really handy when your child falls and gets hurt. Cries stop quickly and it is easier to evaluate the damage done when the child has quieted down to breastfeed. It is a remedy to all ailments. For me, breastfeeding made caring for my children so easy that I now have difficulty babysitting little children without having this option! When I babysit my grandchild, I always feel helpless when he cries. I have always put my children to the breast to soothe them. It is so much more difficult to find ways to divert a child’s attention from his pain without being able to give him warm breastmilk.

Often I see mothers caring for their infants and toddlers, and I wonder how they do it without breastfeeding! It is true that many mothers struggle with breastfeeding during the first weeks. I know it can be discouraging. A new mother gets tired easily at the beginning and feels overwhelmed without support. If you are a new mother or someone helping one, remember that the difficulties will pass. It is worth it, believe me!!!


Thursday’s post: Dear LC, can I breastfeed my child when he has gastroenteritis?

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