Breastfeeding – whether you do it for one day or one year (or more) – provides wonderful physical and emotional benefits for both you and your baby. No matter what factors influence your decisions along your unique parenting journey, here are some breastfeeding benefits to consider.
Benefits of Breastfeeding + Breast Milk for Baby:
- Right after delivery, your colostrum delivers a high concentration of antibodies and helps gently clear your baby’s intestine, decreasing the chance of jaundice.
- Breast milk contains antibodies, enzymes and white blood cells that protect your baby from viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections and illnesses during breastfeeding. These benefits may even continue after your baby is weaned.
- Breast milk encourages the growth of probiotics and “good bacteria” in the baby’s digestive tract, reducing the risk of diarrheal diseases and helping baby establish a healthy immune system.
- Breastfeeding supports brain development, improving IQ scores later in life. Also, children who were breastfed showed better understanding of language at age 3 and better verbal and nonverbal intelligence at 7.
- The immune components in breast milk provide protection against milk allergy, eczema, and wheezing early in life.
- Breastfeeding may prevent obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle as your child grows older.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and certain types of spinal meningitis.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS.
- Breastfeeding facilitates a special bond between mom and baby and promotes lower stress levels.
- The sucking motion of feeding at the breast strengthens oral muscles, facial bones, and supports optimal dental development.
- Breastfeeding increases the effectiveness of immunizations such as polio, tetanus, and diphtheria vaccines.
- Premature babies who are fed breast milk throughout their NICU stay are discharged on average one to two weeks sooner than those who received little or no breast milk.
- Breastfed infants are more protected against chronic conditions like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and some childhood cancers.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom:
- Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers.
- Oxytocin levels increase while breastfeeding, which stimulates postpartum uterine contractions, minimizes blood loss, and enhances bonding and maternal instincts. Higher levels of oxytocin may also help prevent the onset of postpartum depression.
- Many breastfeeding moms report an increase in weight loss during the first 3 to 12 months postpartum, due to how your body burns up to 500 calories a day producing breast milk.
- Breastfeeding moms can experience psychological benefits such as increased self-confidence and a strong bond with their little one.
- Exclusive breastfeeding can sometimes delay the return of fertility, working as a natural contraceptive.
- New research shows a possible link between lower rates of developing Alzheimer’s disease and women who have breastfed.
- Breastfeeding has also been linked to a reduced rate of mothers developing age-related macular degeneration later in life.
- Breastfeeding offers cost-saving benefits, too – even if you factor in gear like a breast pump and related supplies. Because breastfed babies get sick less often, you can also save money in healthcare costs.
Do any of these benefits influence your decision to breastfeed? Which benefit is most important to you?