Across the ages, breasts have remained very relevant to the provision of comfort for humans. For the newborn human, this paired organ serves as the source of nutrition and vitality. We know that the first milk produced soon after the delivery of the baby is naturally constituted to nurture the neonate with much-needed antibodies that protect the newborn from infectious microorganisms. Beyond this (and the nutritional role these organs play), the breasts also serve as an object that enables bonding between the newborn and his/her mother.
As the mother suckles her newborn, the mouth of the baby stimulates the sensory receptors of the nipples sending signals to the mother’s, brain thereby causing there to be a steady release of a cascade of hormones, especially oxytocin. This hormone can also be referred to as a “feel good” hormone as it indeed makes the mother feel good while also helping the womb to be restored.
The breasts serve as a point of focus for the interactions between the mother and the baby. These valuable interactions provide the baby with its first social relationship while also helping the child to develop a secure attachment with the mother. Without this secure attachment, the capacity for the development of empathy and compassion will be disrupted.
As the baby breastfeeds, he learns how to relate with the mother (who also caters to the needs of the baby) while also developing in physical and mental capacity. The highly nutritious breast milk supplies the brain with required nutrients while the physical structure of the breast in its natural form provides the baby with both pleasure and comfort.
There is no infant formula that is a complete replica of the breast milk and no “feeding bottle” with the natural endowment of the breasts!
The month of August is set aside yearly to promote breastfeeding and educate the entire world of its benefits. The theme for the year 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.
The WHO and UNICEF are using this theme to sensitize governments towards promoting the practice and the skill of breastfeeding among mothers due to the immense emotional and physical benefits to both the baby and the nursing mother.
There is indeed no better time for us to remind ourselves that indeed “no foundation is as sure as that laid by the breasts for the brain”.
Happy Breastfeeding Month!