Benefits of Breastfeeding, for You and Your Baby
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
Becoming a parent means making a lot of choices. One of the earliest decisions you'll need to make about your baby is how you will feed them. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively during the first six months of a baby's life1, and then breastmilk combined with solid food for the remainder of the first year. Some parents decide to continue to breastfeed beyond the first year of life.
Women who decide to breastfeed often do so because it offers a wide range of benefits, both to them and to their babies. If you are debating between breast and bottle, it can help to look at the ways breastfeeding will help your baby, from the time they are infant up through adulthood, and the benefits breastfeeding can offer you.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Your Baby
One of the biggest benefits of breastfeeding is that the breast milk you provide your baby is custom made for their nutritional needs. Immediately after birth, your breasts product colostrum, a golden-yellow liquid that is full of the nutrients and antibodies your newborn baby needs. Colostrum not only provides the nutrients your baby needs, but it can also play a supportive role in the development of your baby's digestive system.
As your baby gets older, the milk your body produces changes. The milk becomes thinner and might contain less fat compared to colostrum. Your body gets the signal to adjust the type of milk it produces through compounds in your baby's saliva. When you decide to breastfeed, you can rest assured that your baby is getting the nutrition they need to thrive, naturally.
Beyond providing the nutrition your baby needs, breastfeeding offers additional health benefits for babies, such as:
● Less diarrhea and vomiting
● Lower rates of respiratory illnesses and hospitalizations
● Reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
● Fewer ear infections
● Reduced rates of mortality
● Stronger immune systems
Breastfeeding Benefits Continue During Childhood
The health benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond infancy and into a person's childhood and adolescence. Children who were breastfed for at least six months as babies have a lower likelihood of developing childhood leukemia compared to children who were fed formula2.
As children grow up, those who were breastfed are less likely to develop either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. They are also less likely to be obese during adolescence and into adulthood.
Breastfeeding Benefits for You
Breastfeeding doesn't just provide health benefits to babies. It also offers a variety of benefits to mothers. Just as babies who were breastfed have lower rates of diabetes, moms who breastfeed might be less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes3. It might also reduce the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer4.
Right after your baby's birth, breastfeeding provides immediate benefits. It encourages the production of two hormones, oxytocin, and prolactin, that encourage attachment and focus. The release of the hormone oxytocin also aids your body in recovery after childbirth.
In the months right after delivery, breastfeeding your baby may serve as a natural supplement to your birth control. Exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months after birth can help to delay the return of your period, reducing the chance of another pregnancy too soon.
Other Benefits of Breastfeeding
Beyond providing your baby with the nutrients they need and helping them develop strong systems, and beyond offering health benefits to you, there are other advantages to breastfeeding. Compared to formula, breastmilk is very budget-friendly: Your body naturally produces it and it can be in abundant supply. Formula, on the other hand, can be pretty expensive.
Breastfeeding can also be more convenient for new moms. You don't have to sterilize bottles or heat the breast milk to a particular temperature. It's ready to go when your baby is ready to feed.
How to Get Help With Breastfeeding
In many cases, new moms can begin breastfeeding their babies within an hour or so of their birth. It helps to be prepared for breastfeeding before your baby is born so that you know what to expect. You might want to take a breastfeeding class with your partner while you are pregnant to learn the basics. When you give birth, the hospital might make a lactation consultant available to you to help guide you through the process and to provide advice on latching and to show you how to hold the baby while they feed.
You might encounter some challenges as you begin breastfeeding, but the benefits of breastmilk will be well worth the effort it takes to figure out how breastfeeding works.
If you are interested in receiving a breastfeeding consultation please call Rita Jordan RN, Lactation Consultant IBCLC at 321-268-6682.
1. Where We Stand, American Academy of Pediatrics, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Where-We-Stand-Breastfeeding.aspx
2. Breastfeeding Benefits Your Baby's Immune System, Healthy Children, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Breastfeeding-Benefits-Your-Babys-Immune-System.aspx
3. Making the Decision to Breastfeed, Office on Women's Health, https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed/#3
4. Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom, Healthy Children, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx
5. Learning to Breastfeed, Office on Women's Health, https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/learning-breastfeed
6. Breastfeeding Your Baby, March of Dimes, https://www.marchofdimes.org/baby/breastfeeding-your-baby.aspx