Breast milk and formula are both great ways to feed young children, and any decision you make when it comes to nutrition is the right one for you. However, it is true that breastfeeding has many positive health benefits for both mothers and infants, and it’s important to understand what some of these are.
Benefits for Baby
If you’re able to breastfeed, Baby will experience a number of positive health effects as a result.
- Lower rates of sickness: Breast milk is rich in nutrients that support an infant’s health. Breastfed babies have been found to have a lower rate of respiratory infections, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, asthma, eczema, and celiac disease, among other conditions. This includes a 36% reduced risk of SIDS.
- Better digestion: Compared to formula, breast milk is easier for babies to digest and encourages the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.
- Bonding with you: The closeness from breastfeeding will help Baby feel comforted and develop an emotional bond with you. This may have something to do with the release of the hormone oxytocin – the “love” hormone – during breastfeeding.
Evidence also supports a reduction in the likelihood of developing childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes, or even certain types of cancers, like acute lymphocytic and acute myeloid leukemia.
Benefits for you
Breastfeeding isn’t just beneficial for babies. There are good reasons for you to breastfeed, too.
- Physical benefits: Breastfeeding helps your uterus shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size, and it can potentially reduce postpartum bleeding. Women who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancer; also, breastfeeding can act as a natural form of contraception, as most women do not have a period until several months postpartum if they breastfeed exclusively.
- Bonding with Baby: The act of breastfeeding triggers your body to release oxytocin and prolactin, two hormones that help you feel love and attachment.
- Time-saving: Breast milk doesn’t require any preparation; you’ll save yourself time that you’d spend sterilizing equipment and preparing formula.
- Cost: Breast milk is free and because of the protective factors in breast milk, Baby is likely to get sick less which means less chances of you potentially having to miss work.
- Environment: Simply put, breastfeeding requires less use of fossil fuels and other resources, so if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, breastfeeding is the way to go.
Not every woman can breastfeed, but if you’re able to, there are lots of good reasons to go for it once Baby arrives. Both you and Baby will get to experience a number of positive health benefits, some of which can last for quite some time.
- “Breastfeeding.” HopkinsMedicine.org. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System, Jan 1 2017. Web.
- “Breastfeeding Benefits: Your Baby’s Immune System.” HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, Jan 1 2006. Web.
- “Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom.” HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, Apr 1 2011. Web.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 129(3). Web. Mar 2012.