Breastfeeding is a very personal decision and one that often calls for very strong opinions either in favor or against it. The choice to do so or not is really up to the mother and the unique situation she and her baby find themselves in, but it’s always necessary to stay informed on the pros and cons. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of medical experts and institutions like the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend breastfeeding, and here we will talk about the most significant benefits breastfeeding can bring to you and your baby.
Breastfeeding Benefits For The Baby
- Nature’s perfect food: Breast milk is the ideal food for a baby. Think about it, breast milk is the result of years of evolution, so what could be better for your baby than nature’s choice for nutrition? It contains the ideal mix of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and vitamins, all the nutrients that a newborn needs to grow and be healthy, and this is backed up by all the benefits found on breastfed babies.
- Statistically beneficial: Studies have shown statistics where breastfed babies have a considerably lower risk of suffering from all types of illnesses, including childhood leukemia. Some other benefits that have been found in these babies are a better brain development, a healthy weight, and of course a stronger immune system resulting in a lower risk of infection.
- Helps the immune system: Breast milk contains all types of antibodies, creating a strong and capable immune system for the baby, fighting off infections much more quickly. The antibody that has been most linked to being passed on to the baby through breast milk is IgA (immunoglobin A), which is often found on the mucosa. A higher count of IgA has been proven to help and prevent all sorts of allergies, and lower the risk of suffering from asthma.
- Let’s talk about colostrum: As good as regular breast milk sounds, there’s something even better that comes from the breast. Colostrum is also known as the pre-milk, and it’s a thick and yellow liquid that comes out of the breast during the first few days after the birth.
This liquid is even more of an ideal nutrition for the baby. It’s thick consistency and yellowish colour it’s due to the high quantity of protein it has, and it also contains a lot of essential substances for the growth of the baby, such as insulin and epidermal growth factor. Feeding your baby with colostrum for as long as you can produce it helps them develop their digestive track, and gets them ready to receive the milk that comes later.
- No bad eating habits: Apart from all the useful substances and nutrients breast milk contains, breastfeeding is also beneficial for your baby to develop healthy eating habits. When you breastfeed your baby, they will eat until they are satisfied, no more or less. Learning to eat only until they’re full from such an early stage is really helpful to prevent future eating problems.
- A few things to take into consideration: Even though breast milk is a source of almost every nutrient your baby needs, there are still some notes that have to be clarified. When it comes to nutrients, especially vitamins, it must be clear that for the baby to get them, the mother has to have a sufficient intake. If the mother doesn’t have a balanced diet, then the baby won’t get as many benefits from the breast milk as they could.
It is also important to point out that Vitamin D supplements are often recommended by doctors, as the babies don’t get enough sunlight and mothers frequently don’t have enough intake. This results in breast milk not providing enough Vitamin D, and the baby also not producing it with the help of the sun rays. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that children receive 400 IU of Vitamin D daily.
Breastfeeding Benefits For The Mom
- You will heal faster: Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. This hormone has many effects on the body, the two most important ones being the contraction of the uterus and the ejection of milk by the mammary glands. Therefore, oxytocin is released during labour, being responsible for the contractions, and with the stimulation of the nipples in lactating mothers, making the milk come out.
- This means that when a mother breastfeeds, she releases more oxytocin, which makes the uterus contract, helping with the post-labour healing. So one benefit found in breastfeeding mothers is that they heal much more quickly than a mother who doesn’t.
- It helps with PPD: Postpartum depression is a condition that affects more women than we think, but studies have found that breastfeeding could help prevent it from happening. Oxytocin doesn’t only have physical effects, but it also works psychologically.
This hormone is linked to maternal behaviour and a connection with the baby, so by releasing more oxytocin during breastfeeding, mothers show more affection and a lower amount of anxiety regarding their baby. Plus, the simple act of feeding your child yourself is known to be a great way to connect with the baby, which helps to form a more significant bond.
- A natural contraceptive?: When women breastfeed continuously, menstruation and ovulation pauses. This is nature’s way of making sure there will be a considerable amount of time between pregnancies. A rest from your period is always a nice thing, and an extra method of contraception is useful too. But keep in mind that this isn’t a 100% safe method, and needs to be used alongside other forms of birth control.
- Statistically beneficial for the mother too: Breastfeeding has also been linked to statistics that show many health benefits for the mother as well. For example, women who breastfed showed a lower risk of suffering from breast and ovarian cancer for reasons that haven’t been determined yet. Some other benefits are a lower risk of suffering from osteoporosis, as breastfeeding mothers absorb calcium much more, and it can also make you lose weight.
- It’s convenient: The ultimate reason to breastfeed your child comes down to convenience. Breastfeeding saves you time and money, as it’s free and you don’t have to do much. Just a little privacy and you’re good to go.
As we said in the beginning, whether a woman chooses to breastfeed or not is entirely up to the her and the situation regarding the birth, the baby, and the health of the mother herself. We just recommend taking into consideration all the significant benefits that come with breastfeeding, for both the mother and the baby.