Benefits of Breastfeeding
There have been major breakthroughs in both breastfeeding awareness and support in recent years, from increases in hospitals to promote breastfeeding to new mothers, to celebrities and new moms alike sharing their journeys through posting #brelfies on social media, and of course the many breastfeeding laws that have been put on the books across the nation, making it safe and accessible for mothers to breastfeed or pump in public and in the workplace. But for all the new moms out there, it’s important to remember that breastfeeding is a choice. Many women choose not to breastfeed for personal or medical reasons. So if you or a loved one is expecting, here are some great benefits to know about as you embark on your decision making process:
Colostrum — The Magic Serum:
The first milk your body produces during pregnancy called colostrum, acts almost like baby’s first natural vaccination. Packed with antibodies and immunoglobulins, this first milk, which can be clear or a thicker golden color, is the ideal formula for your newborn, helping protect against bacteria and viruses, while also preparing your baby’s digestive system to start processing nutrients.
Lower Risk of Infection & Disease:
Continuing to breastfeed for at least six months helps to decrease the number of infections and viruses, as well as reduce the risk of chronic illness for your baby. This is due to the presence of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in both colostrum and mature breast milk, which helps to build up a protective layer in the intestines, nose and throat of the baby, guarding against immediate infections such as ear infections, colds, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as the development of other longer-lasting conditions like diabetes, allergies, and asthma.
Promotes Healthy Weight:
Because it is specially formulated in your body to provide the right balance of nutrients to newborns, breast milk helps to regulate weight in babies. By boosting digestive health, breast milk lowers risk of diarrhea in infants, helping them to keep on crucial weight. Additionally, there is mounting evidence that breast milk helps to prevent childhood obesity later on.
Although there is some healthy skepticism surrounding a recent study linking breastfeeding to higher IQ scores and success rates in adults, there has been significant claims that the long-chain saturated fatty acids found in breast milk do help boost brain development. So, even if there is no hard and fast evidence that your breast-fed child will grow up to have a higher IQ, you can rest assured that you’re doing all you can to aid crucial brain development.
Breastfeeding Burns Calories:
Making it a great way to trim off baby weight post-pregnancy. It also produces a hormone called oxytocin, which not only helps to contract and heal your uterus after giving birth, but it also acts as a stress-reliever, and aids in lowering risk of postpartum depression.
The Post-Pregnancy Birth Control:
Continuous breastfeeding also puts menstruation on pause, acting as a post-pregnancy birth control for up to six months.
Just as Healthy for You:
There have been many studies linking breastfeeding to lower risk of a variety of cancers and diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. Research has shown strongest links towards reduced risk of breast cancer, due to the hormonal change that occurs during lactation.
Low Cost, Low Carbon Footprint:
Not only is producing breast milk cheaper than buying a year’s worth of formula, but ditching the packaging and sterilizing equipment means a lower carbon footprint for you and your baby, making breastfeeding more cost-effective, time-efficient, and environmentally sound!
There are many wonderful benefits to breastfeeding, but there are also many difficulties that can arise in both mothers and newborns. For more information on breastfeeding, check out these breastfeeding basics, or the breastfeeding problem solver.
Written by Olivia Murphy