Do You Know the Benefits of Breastfeeding?
The decision to breastfeed your baby is a personal one. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it, and even if you decide before you deliver your baby to breastfeed or not, you might change your mind once she’s born. Many organizations (like the AAP, WHO, and UNICEF) recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months of life, then add complementary foods in addition to breastmilk through 12 months of age, and even longer if both mother and baby are willing. While it’s certainly true that it can be full of challenges, there are clear benefits of breastfeeding that will give your little one every advantage during this time of rapid growth and development.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
Full of vitamins, protein, and fat, breastmilk contains an incredible mix of nutrients that manufactured formulas just can’t reproduce. It’s a superfood perfectly suited for babies and especially beneficial for preemies. Studies show that babies who are breastfed tend to be healthier overall as they grow. Breastmilk helps your baby in immediate and lifelong ways.
- Short term:
- Breastmilk builds better digestive systems. Breastmilk is easier to digest and lowers the occurrence of diarrhea and constipation. This means breastfed babies want to feed more often than bottle-fed babies, because formula takes longer to digest.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of allergies, asthma, and respiratory illness.
- Mom’s antibodies are passed along to her baby through breastmilk and help strengthen baby’s immune system so she is less likely to get sick.
- Breastfeeding leads to fewer ear infections.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS.
- Long term:
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of diabetes.
- Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese as children and adults.
- Breastfeeding results in higher IQ scores.
- Breastfeeding aids in developing psychological security. Since breastfeeding leads to more skin-to-skin contact and physical closeness early in life, it offers baby the support and connection she needs to help her transition to life outside the womb. This relationship you develop with your baby will help her learn and grow as she develops through the years.
There are Advantages for Mom, Too
There are a variety of reasons why a mother might choose to breastfeed her baby. But did you know breastfeeding can help moms, too? Breastfeeding:
- Burns extra calories – Lose some of that pregnancy weight! Breastfeeding burns 300-700 extra calories a day. It also releases hormones which help mother’s uterus shrink back down to pre-birth size.
- Lowers risk of disease – Breastfeeding helps lower the chances of developing osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ovarian and breast cancer, and heart disease.
- Saves time and money – If you breastfeed your baby exclusively, there is no need to purchase formula, which can cost up to $1500 for the first year of your baby’s life (depending on which brand he/she uses). Breastfeeding is free! You also don’t have to worry about washing bottles and nipples.
- Promotes bonding – Since your baby will need to breastfeed every few hours, you get the chance to sit and have quiet time often together. This also means more skin-to-skin contact and physical closeness, which helps newborns feel more secure.
When Breastfeeding May Not be the Best Option
While breastfeeding is typically the best in nutrition for your newborn baby, there are some instances where it can cause more harm than good. If a mother is taking prescription medication, is HIV positive, receiving treatment for cancer, using illegal drugs, or has active tuberculosis, these can be passed to the baby through breastfeeding. Some women simply choose not to breastfeed for other reasons, such as concern about breastfeeding in public places or how breastfeeding will change the way her breasts look. Others prefer the flexibility bottle feeding offers so that other family members, such as the baby’s father, can share the responsibility of feeding the baby.
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the most important thing is that your baby receives the nutrition she needs to develop and grow. If breastfeeding is just not feasible, formula is a healthy alternative. Ultimately, each woman must choose what works best for her and her baby.
What are your thoughts about breastfeeding? Share with us in the comments!