If you’ve been considering not breastfeeding your new baby, you’re probably inundated with information. It’s a personal decision only you can make, but the benefits are seemingly endless.
Before you decide or if you just need reassurance that breast milk is the right choice for you, let’s go through all the benefits to both you and baby.
Here are 11 science-based benefits of breastfeeding that are amazing for you and for your little one.
Breastfeeding benefits for baby
1. Breast milk provides ideal nutrition for babies
Most healthcare professionals recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months or much longer.
Breast milk contains everything baby needs for the first 6 months of life, in all the right proportions. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life.
During the first days after birth, your breasts produce a thick and yellowish fluid called colostrum. It’s high in protein, low in sugar and loaded with beneficial compounds.
Colostrum is the ideal first milk and helps the newborn’s immature digestive tract develop. After the first few days, the breasts start producing larger amounts of milk as the baby’s stomach grows.
2. Breast milk contains important antibodies
Breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria, which is critical in those tender, early months.
This particularly applies to colostrum, the first milk. Colostrum provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies.
3. Breastfeeding may reduce disease risk
Exclusive breastfeeding trusted source, meaning that the infant receives only breast milk, is particularly beneficial.
It may reduce your baby’s risk for many illnesses and diseases, including: Middle ear infections, Respiratory tract infections, Colds and infections, Gut infections, Intestinal tissue damage, Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), Bowel diseases, Diabetes and Childhood leukemia.
4. Breast milk promotes baby’s healthy weight
Studies showed that breastfeeding for longer than 4 months had a significant reduction in the chances of a baby developing overweight and obesity.
This may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts trusted source of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage.
Babies fed breast milk also have more leptin in their systems than formula-fed babies. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage.
Breastfed babies also self-regulate their milk intake. They’re better at eating only until they’ve satisfied their hunger, which helps them develop healthy eating patterns.
5. Breastfeeding may make children smarter
Breastfeeding may help baby ace those tests. Studies suggest there may be a difference in brain development between breastfed and formula-fed babies.
This difference may be due to the physical intimacy, touch, and eye contact associated with breastfeeding as well as nutrient content.
Studies also indicate that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop behavioral problems have learning difficulties as they grow older.
Breastfeeding benefits for mother
6. Breastfeeding may help mother lose weight
You may have heard this one often. While some women seem to gain weight during breastfeeding, others seem to effortlessly lose weight.
Breastfeeding does burn more calories, and after 3 months of lactation, you’ll likely experience an increase in fat burning compared to non-lactating mothers. Though the difference isn’t significant.
7. Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract
During pregnancy, your uterus grows immensely, expanding from the size of a pear to filling almost the entire space of your abdomen.
After delivery, your uterus goes through a process called involution, which helps it return to its previous size. Oxytocin, a hormone that increases throughout pregnancy, helps drive this process.
Your body secretes high amounts of oxytocin during labor to help deliver the baby and reduce bleeding.
Oxytocin also increases during breastfeeding. It encourages uterine contractions and reduces bleeding, helping the uterus return to its previous size.
8. Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk for depression
Postpartum depression(PPD) is a type of depression that can develop shortly after childbirth.
Women who breastfeed seem less likely to develop postpartum depression, compared to mothers who wean early or do not breastfeed.
However, those who experience postpartum depression early after delivery are also more likely to have trouble breastfeeding and do so for a shorter duration.
9. Breastfeeding reduces your disease risk
Breastfeeding seems to provide you with long term protection against cancer and several diseases.
The total time a woman spends breastfeeding is linked with a reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Women who breastfeed have a lower risk for: high blood pressure, arthritis, high blood fats, blood pressure and 2types of diabetes.
10. Breastfeeding may prevent menstruation
Continued breastfeeding also pauses ovulation and menstruation. The suspension of menstrual cycles may actually be nature’s way of ensuring there’s some time between pregnancies.
You may consider this change as an extra benefit. While you’re enjoying precious time with your newborn, it’s just one less thing to worry about.
11. It saves time and money
To top the list, breastfeeding is mostly free, barring expenses for any lactation consulting and breast pumps. By choosing to breastfeed, you won’t have to: spend money on formula, calculate how much your baby needs to drink daily, spend time cleaning and sterilizing bottles, mix and warm up bottles in the middle of the night (or day) and figure out ways to warm up bottles while on the go.
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