Around four out of five mothers in Switzerland breastfeed their babies, which shows that even today breastfeeding remains by far the most popular option. It is practical and gives mothers more independence because breast milk is free, available anytime and anywhere, and always at the right temperature. In addition, the quantity of milk is continually adjusted to meet the baby’s needs as it develops. Breastfeeding is highly recommended by midwives and doctors because of the many benefits it brings. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively for six months. Recent findings suggest that other foods should be added to a baby’s diet from about the age of four months in order to prevent the development of allergies.
Breast milk contains proteins, important fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and iron. These nutrients provide the ideal combination for a baby’s physical and mental development. Mother’s milk also contains antibodies which help to prevent infections. Babies which were breastfed also have a lower risk of becoming ill in later life and are less susceptible to diabetes, heart disease and allergies.
Breastfeeding is about more than nutrition. It strengthens the emotional bond between mother and child and provides affection and warmth.
The hormone oxytocin is released in the mother’s body when she is breastfeeding. It triggers the milk flow, but it is also important in ensuring that the womb returns quickly to its original size and that post-natal vaginal discharge stops more quickly.
Studies have also found that breastfeeding has an enduring positive impact on the health of mothers. The risk of developing breast cancer, for example, is decreased. Other illnesses (e.g. high blood pressure and heart complaints) are also less common in women who have breastfed.