We all know that breast milk is the food nature has provided for us to feed our babies. But did you know that feeding your baby is only one of the benefits of breastfeeding? Keep reading to find out why breastfeeding is perfect for moms, babies, families and society in general.
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Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom
1. Combat cancer
Women who breastfeed have fewer periods than those who don’t. That means your body has less exposure to the hormone oestrogen, a known factor in ovarian and uterine cancer. The changes to your breast when lactating also make them more resilient to mutation, which can lead to breast cancer. Women who breastfeed for more than 1 year will see the most benefit.
2. Prevent Osteoporosis
When you breastfeed you can lose up to 5% of your bone mass. When you stop feeding your bones return to normal, or may get even stronger. Studies have shown that women who do not breastfeed are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis during the menopause.
3. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Did you know that heart disease is the number-one cause of death for women n the USA? A study from 2009 found that the longer a woman breastfeeds the lower their risk of developing heart disease. This was regardless of race, income or lifestyle. That’s a pretty powerful message of how amazing breastfeeding can be for your health.
Producing breast milk burns up calories. You have a better chance of losing your pregnancy weight when breastfeeding with no physical effort. Studies have found that breastfeeding moms lose more weight and keep it off better than moms who don’t breastfeed.
5. Eat More
If weight loss isn’t on your radar, then you can look forward to eating more. A breastfeeding mom should add 200-500 calories to their diet. This will depend on how often you nurse your baby. Make sure you use those calories wisely with healthy fats and calcium-rich food to support your bones.
6. Better Postpartum Healing
Your uterus will shrink back to ‘normal’ once baby is delivered. You may feel tightenings called ‘after pains’ whilst you breastfeed as it speeds up the process. You are more likely to improve your diet and drink more fluid when breastfeeding, which can also help the healing process.
7. Preventing Haemorrhage
An artificial version of the hormone oxytocin is given to women soon after baby is born to deliver the placenta and prevent bleeding. Breastfeeding provides a natural release of oxytocin. If you opt for a drug-free delivery or want a physiological third stage, then breastfeeding is a great alternative to get the same effects.
8. Ideal for Diabetics
Breastfeeding makes it easier for diabetic moms to control their blood sugars after baby is born. There is a slower release of hormones, which cause fluctuations in blood sugars. Most moms that use insulin can reduce their dosage. This can make you less anxious about a hypo or hyper attack with a newborn baby.
9. Better Quality Sleep
The release of oxytocin during a feed will make you automatically feel relaxed and sleepy. This leads to a better quality sleep, especially when combined with co-sleeping. Most breastfeeding moms simply latch baby on and drift back to sleep. Compared to being started awake and having to rush about preparing a bottle as baby cries when formula feeding.
10. Natural Contraception
Using breastfeeding as a form of birth control is possible. It’s known as the lactational amenorrhoea method (LAM). It’s around 98% effective if your baby is exclusively breastfeeding and under 6 months old. You’ll need to be pretty strict with this method. However, it’s ideal if you prefer to use natural family planning methods.
11. Less Stress
The oxytocin strikes again with its relaxing properties. Every time you breastfeed you get a release of oxytocin. Breastfeeding moms have more stabilised moods and are less likely to experience negative emotion due to this.
12. No Periods
When you are exclusively breastfeeding it is unlikely you will have any periods. This will usually last for around 6 months when your prolactin hormone levels begin to fall. Even if you do get periods its likely they will be lighter and shorter lasting than a normal cycle, until you start weaning baby.
13. Bigger Boobs
This may not be a benefit to all moms, but your boobs will probably increase a few cups sizes. If you have a flat chest, this can really boost your confidence. It can also help you counteract any negative emotion you have about your changing shape after having baby. Your partner will also be loving your new shape.
14. Feel Good Factor
It’s hard to describe how good breastfeeding makes you feel as a mom. Not only have you grown a baby in your tummy for 9 months, but now you’re helping them to thrive with food you make yourself. Women’s bodies are pretty amazing and breastfeeding can help you to find a new appreciation for your body.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby
15. Perfect Food
Breast milk is what human babies need to develop the best they can. Did you know that your milk changes nutrients depending on the time of day or age of your baby? It actually adapts to fit your baby’s needs. It’s amazing stuff, and you will never get a formula that can do achieve that.
16. Infection Fighting
Your breast milk is crammed full of anti-bodies that help your baby fight infection. Any immunity you have built up is automatically passed to baby whilst you breastfeed. It’s thought that baby’s saliva enters your nipple as you feed .Your body then makes the exact milk their immune system needs to keep any infection a bay.
17. Prevent SIDS
Breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of SIDS by up to 50%. Even mixed feeding reduces their risk, however, most benefit is seen in babies who exclusively breastfeed. Breastfeeding causes moms and babies to act in their most primal state, mentally and physically. As humans, our aim is to ensure our babies survive, and breastfeeding is just one huge part of that jigsaw.
18. Childhood Leukaemia
This is the second biggest cause of child deaths and the most common childhood cancer in the USA. A massive study review has found that breastfeeding your baby for more than 6 months reduces their risk of leukaemia by 19%. Even babies who breastfeed any length of time had a risk decrease of 11%.
19. Reduce Common Ailments
Babies are prone to ear and chest infections as their immune system develops. Breastfeeding is known to protect your baby against respiratory illness and ear infections. The immune boosting properties of breast milk help fight any bacterial or viral infections your baby pick up. Ear infections and breathing problems are also a common side effect of cow milk allergy.
20. Prevent Obesity
With 1 in 5 children in America being classed as obese, it’s important to start out with the right nutrition. Breastfed babies are much better at regulating their food intake and feeding until they are satisfied. Bottle feeding is associated with obesity risk factors such as overfeeding and early weaning.
21. Prevent Diabetes
Breast milk is known to improve glucose metabolism in babies. This is a huge factor in preventing them from developing both Type1 and Type 2 diabetes in later life. Frequent feeding and customised breastfeeding nutrients help to stabilise your baby’s blood sugars throughout the day.
22. Prevent Heart Disease
Studies have found that babies who breastfeed have a lowered risk of heart disease. They have lower levels of a protein (CRP) linked with poor heart health in adults. Feeding for over 3 months reduced their risk by 20%. If you feed baby for more than one year, this jumps to a risk reduction of 30%.
23. Better Response to Vaccine
Although breastfeeding provides immunity, it’s not a replacement for vaccinations. Various studies have found that breastfed babies react better to non-live vaccines. It’s thought that breastmilk enhances the immune response your baby has. We still don’t have solid evidence for live vaccines. It is thought that the stronger immunity from breastfeeding is a natural protectant against the small doses of live vaccine given.
24. Premature Babies Develop Better
Breastmilk is highly recommended for pre-term babies. That’s because pre-term milk maintains similar properties to colostrum. This means its higher is fat and immune boosting properties. These are essential for development preterm babies who have a lower birth weight and under-developed immune system.
25. Helps Babies Brain Develop
Recent studies have found that babies exposed to higher levels of oxytocin have healthier brain development. Oxytocin is realised in breast milk and when moms comfort their babies. As breastfed babies feed more frequently, this gives greater release of oxytocin with skin to skin contact.
26. Healthier Digestive System
Breast milk is easily digested by the human body. The nutrients in breast milk are absorbed quicker and easier than those in formula milk. Breast milk is known to soothe baby’s digestive system, unlike cow’s milk which causes irritation. Exclusively breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from reflux, Chrons disease and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm babies.
27. Helps Emotional Development
The closeness of breastfeeding has amazing effects of baby’s emotional development. Comfort, love, security and communication are all things your baby learns from nursing. When you are responsive to a baby’s needs, they have a tendency to develop as independent, mature, assertive and confident adults.
28. Better Dental Health
There are bacteria known to cause tooth decay (strep mutans). The lactoferrin in breast milk is known to kill these bacteria. Good dental hygiene is important to completely avoid tooth decay; however, breastmilk help to prevent it developing. The tongue motion of a breastfed baby also prevents gum disease.
29. Less Need for Braces
Suckling at the breast means baby has to work a lot harder to feed. This helps baby to develop strong, healthy jaws and teeth. The longer you breastfeed the more likely babies are to have straight teeth. This means breastfeeding can save you a lot of money as they won’t need braces when they get older.
30. Natural Growth
Breast milk is made from nutrients perfectly suited to human growth. Formula is made from cow’s milk, which is developed to meet the needs of baby cows. The main aim of breast milk is foster gradual growth and brain development in babies. Cow’s milk is designed for quick physical growth. However, is lacking in the brain developing factors human babies need.
31. Early Allergy Detection
Breastfeeding is great for early detection of food allergies. Your baby is exposed to any foods in mom’s diet, which can alert you to allergy symptoms in baby before you start to wean. It’s known that around 2% of US children have an allergy to cow milk. This can resolve by exclusively breastfeeding for at least 4 months before introducing dairy into their diet.
32. Calm Baby Quickly
The oxytocin in breast milk is known to act as a relaxant for your baby. When they are hungry, sore, overtired or stressed, breastfeeding will have a calming effect on them. Even when babies have been weaned they can be comforted by their favourite feeding position or letting them touch your chest.
Other Benefits of Breastfeeding
33. Less Sick Days
The vast health benefits breastfeeding give baby means they are less likely to have health problems. That means fewer trips to the doctors or needing to take days off work and school. This has a huge impact on the workforce reducing the cost of absence.
34. Right Temperature
A huge benefit of nursing over formula is that you don’t need to heat up baby bottles. The stress of waiting for a formula bottle to heat up can lead you to take short cuts. Milk which isn’t heated properly can lead to hot pockets, which can burn your baby’s mouth.
35. It’s Free
If you are on a tight budget breastmilk is ideal. You don’t need to stress about having enough money to buy numerous cans of formula. The average cost of formula feeding for a year can total around the $3000. Just think what you can do with that money.
36. Great for Flying
When you breastfeed you don’t need to worry about taking bottles on a plane. When formula feeding you can only take powder (pain to make up and sterilize on a place) or take ready mixed milk cartons (expensive). You’ll also need to think about water safety and sterilisation depending on your destination.
37. Better For Health Service
Breastfeeding offers huge benefits to public health. Disease and illnesses associated with not breastfeeding can be greatly reduced if more babies breastfed. This would save the government (and tax payers) millions every year. This means the resources and time of medical practitioners can better focussed.
38. Better For the Environment
The amount of resources need for formula milk and bottle feeding is harmful for the environment. The amount of waste from huge volumes of packaging, transporting and recycling of formula tins has a massive impact on the environment. Bottles and teats also use non-recyclable plastics, which are very energy intensive to make.
39. Reduce animal cruelty
The dairy industry is notorious for their ill treatment of cows. They are often kept in poor conditions with their only purpose to produce milk. Their babies are removed from them only 4 days after birth, causing them extreme distress. They are forced to have a baby one after the other to keep milk production high. This is the milk used to create formula powder for babies.
40. Increased Bonding
The oxytocin hormone released when breastfeeding is also known as the love hormone. High levels of oxytocin promote strong bonds between mom and baby. It’s the same ‘feel good’ hormone released when you cuddle, have an orgasm, give birth or have a good laugh.
41. Empowers Women
Having the confidence to breastfeed your baby can help empower other moms to follow to. Many women are scared to breastfeed as they have no role models. Being the person that acts as a role model for other can change the attitudes of a whole family generation.
42. No Equipment Needed
You don’t need to buy any additional equipment when you are exclusively breastfeeding. There are a few items that you may want to pick up to make your life easier, but they are not essential. If you want to be frugal, you can make your own nursing pads and nipple cream.
43. Life Saving During Emergency
During an emergency situation, breastfeeding can be lifesaving for your baby. Living in a developed country like the USA doesn’t leave if free from the effects of disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes or floods. This can leave you without access to electricity or clean water to make formula sterile for baby.
44. Health Organization Recommended
UNICEF, the World Health organisation and American Academy of Paediatric all promote breastfeeding as the preferred method of baby feeding. This includes term, pre-term and sick infants. The recommendations are the exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, then continued breastfeeding up to two years or longer.
45. No Recalls
Breast milk cannot be recalled, unlike formula. Common causes of recall include serious harm to a baby using the product and contamination. Formula is not sterile and requires the use of hot water to kill any bacteria. Breast milk, on the other hand, is naturally anti-bacterial.
46. Home Remedy Use
Your breast milk can be used for a lot more than feeding baby. Many families use it as a natural cure for minor ailment such as eye and ear infections, sore nipples, cord care or cut and scrapes. The natural anti-bacterial properties help speed up healing. This can save you money from buying over the counter treatments.
47. Time To Unwind
Regular breastfeeding forces you to have to take time out of your day to feed baby. This means you can get regular breast of 10-30 minutes to sit down and relax with baby. Not only does this provide you with some alone time, but help you take a break from a busy lifestyle. Plus it gives you a good excuse to sneak away from unwanted visitors.
48. Less Stinky Diapers
We’re not going to lie, breastfeeding diapers can be brutal. Be prepared for them being right up your baby’s back on some occasions. Breast milk is a natural laxative which keeps your baby’s digestion healthy. The good part is that when you exclusively breastfeed, they don’t smell half as bad as the poos from formula feeding or solids.
49. More Family Sleep
When you breastfeed baby during the night, the level of disruption is minimal compared with formula. Your partner and other siblings will have less disturbed sleep from a crying baby. Plus you’ll make less noise than you would, dragging yourself around at 2am making up formula feeds.
Your breasts will make milk as long as your baby continues to nurse. That means you don’t need to worry about forgetting bottles, warming milk, sterilizing or cleaning bottles. In fact, many moms confess to finding it a lazy way of feeding. That’s because when your milk is established it’s rather effortless.