The phrase “breast is best” is familiar, but have you ever wondered about the specific advantages of breastfeeding? It’s easy to think that breastfeeding is primarily about providing essential nutrients through breast milk, but its benefits extend far beyond basic nutrition. In fact, there are a lot of short-term and long-term benefits that breastfeeding offers to both mothers and babies.
Benefits Of Breastfeeding For A Baby
Breast Milk Digest Easy
Formula indeed contains more protein than breast milk, which might make you think that formula is the superior choice. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
When it comes to protein absorption, breast milk has the advantage. Almost all of the protein in breast milk is absorbed by your baby’s body, whereas only about half of the protein in formula gets absorbed. The remaining proteins in the formula pass through the digestive system without being fully utilized. This is why formula-fed babies tend to have firmer stools, while breastfed babies have looser and more liquid bowel movements.
Breast Milk Contains Antibodies
When your body is infected, your immune system creates antibodies to remember the invader. These antibodies help your body recognize and fight off the same virus or bacteria more effectively if encountered again, preventing you from falling ill.
Breast milk plays a crucial role in this immune defense. It contains antibodies originating from the mother’s immune system, transferring them to the baby. As a result, the presence of these antibodies in breast milk reduces the likelihood of your baby falling ill from certain illnesses, which include:
- Middle ear infections.
- Colds and flu.
- Stomach flu, diarrhea, or vomiting.
- Infections affect the chest, ears, nose, and throat.
Breastfeeding Could Help Establish Sleep Patterns
Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by our bodies during nighttime, significantly regulates our sleep-wake cycles. When our bodies sense a decrease in sunlight, they begin to produce melatonin, leading to a feeling of sleepiness. Interestingly, melatonin also makes its way into breast milk.
A small-scale study discovered an intriguing connection between breastfeeding and sleep patterns. It revealed that breastfed babies tend to sleep slightly longer than formula-fed babies and are quicker to distinguish between daytime and nighttime sleeping.
Researchers suggest that the presence of melatonin in breast milk may contribute to this phenomenon by helping to “train” the natural sleep patterns of our bodies.
Babies Get Colostrum From Breast Milk
Colostrum, a special form of breast milk, is produced by your body in the days after delivery. This unique milk has a thick, yellowish, and creamy consistency, and it provides highly concentrated nutrition in small quantities that are easily digestible for your newborn.
One of the remarkable functions of colostrum is its natural laxative effect. It helps your baby pass meconium, the dark, tar-like substance that accumulates in their intestines during their womb. The passage of meconium not only aids in regular bowel movements but also reduces the likelihood of your baby developing jaundice.
Breastfeeding My Prevent Constipation
Breastfed babies have a lower likelihood of experiencing constipation compared to those who are formula-fed. This can be attributed to two main factors: the natural laxative effects of breast milk and the presence of easily digestible proteins.
Furthermore, it is common for breastfed babies to have fewer bowel movements compared to formula-fed babies. While some breastfed infants may have several small, semi-liquid bowel movements in a day, it is completely normal for exclusively breastfed babies to go without a bowel movement for five or six days. On the other hand, formula-fed babies typically have multiple soft or firm bowel movements every day.
Breastfeeding Protects Against Diabetes
Breastfeeding, whether exclusive for six months or longer or any breastfeeding for 12 months, plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of diabetes in children later in life.
A comprehensive study conducted in Scandinavia involving nearly 156,000 children revealed that those who had never been breastfed faced twice the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Furthermore, obesity is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Breastfed babies have a lower likelihood of becoming obese adults, which consequently reduces their chances of developing type 2 diabetes as well.
Breast Milk Can Make Your Child A Less Picky Eater
The food you consume influences the flavors present in your breast milk. Therefore, when a mother maintains a diverse diet with various foods and flavors, her breastfed baby is exposed to the same flavors. As a result, breastfed babies have the opportunity to experience a wide range of tastes, which is not the case for formula-fed babies.
When breastfed babies eventually transition to solid foods, they are often more receptive to new flavors. This is because they have already been introduced to various tastes through breast milk, making them less likely to be surprised or reject new flavors during the weaning process.
Breastfeed Babies Are Less Likely To Die Of SIDS
When an apparently healthy baby passes away suddenly and without any known medical reasons, it is called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. While the exact causes of SIDS remain unknown, researchers have identified certain factors that can help reduce the risk of its occurrence.
One significant factor is breastfeeding babies for at least the first two months. This practice effectively cuts the risk of SIDS in half. This protective effect holds true for babies exclusively breastfed and those who receive breast milk and formula.
Breastfeed Babies Develop Fewer Cancers As Adults
Breastfed babies have a reduced likelihood of developing various types of cancers, including kidney, rectal, endometrial, pancreatic, and post-menopausal.
This protective effect can be attributed to multiple factors. Firstly, obesity is a significant risk factor for certain cancers, and breastfed babies have a lower tendency to become obese as they grow into adulthood. This decreased risk of obesity contributes to a lower overall risk of developing cancer.
Additionally, breastfed babies tend to have a more efficient and well-regulated immune system. This enhanced immune response may play a role in reducing the risk of cancer development.
The Benefits Of Breastfeeding For The Mother
You May Lower Your Risk Of PPD
Several studies have examined the association between breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding with the risk of experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). The findings indicate that women exclusively breastfed for six months or longer were less likely to develop PPD.
However, the causal relationship between breastfeeding and PPD is not fully understood. It remains unclear whether women who experienced postpartum depression were more likely to discontinue breastfeeding or if breastfeeding provided a protective effect against PPD. Further research is needed to understand the complex interplay between breastfeeding and postpartum mental health.
Uterus Shrinks Back Faster
Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that has various effects on the body. One of the notable effects of oxytocin is its ability to facilitate the contraction of the uterus, helping it return to its pre-pregnancy size faster.
The contraction of uterine muscles, stimulated by oxytocin, not only aids in the process of uterine involution but also contributes to reducing postpartum bleeding and the risk of hemorrhage.
Breastfeeding Saves Money
When it comes to formula feeding, there are several expenses to consider. You’ll need to purchase baby bottles, find a method to sterilize them regularly and ensure a steady supply of formula. This means upfront costs are involved, as well as ongoing expenses to maintain.
On the other hand, breastfeeding can be a cost-effective option. Although there may be some additional items you choose to purchase, such as nursing bras, breast pads, nipple cream, or a breast pump, the overall expenses are still significantly lower compared to formula feeding.
Lose Pregnancy Weight Faster
As a mother who breastfeeds, your body naturally expends additional energy, ranging from around 200 to 500 extra calories per day, compared to non-breastfeeding individuals. The precise number of calories burned depends on factors such as breastfeeding frequency, quantity of milk produced, and whether you exclusively breastfeed.
Considering that you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories to lose a pound of weight, breastfeeding could contribute to a weight loss rate of about one pound per week more than formula feeding. This is due to the increased calorie expenditure associated with breastfeeding.
Your Periods Will Take Longer To Return
During breastfeeding, a woman’s body produces prolactin, a hormone essential for milk production. Interestingly, prolactin also suppresses ovulation in many women who exclusively breastfeed, resulting in a lack of menstrual periods.
However, as your baby starts consuming formula or introducing solid foods into their diet, the prolactin levels in your body decrease. This decrease in prolactin allows ovulation to resume, so your menstrual periods will begin again.
Breastfeeding Is One Less Chore
As a parent who couldn’t breastfeed two of our babies, one aspect I found challenging was the extra work that came with formula feeding.
Formula feeding requires a series of tasks like washing and sterilizing bottles and preparing fresh formula each time, ensuring you have an adequate supply ready for the day or night ahead.
In contrast, breastfeeding involves very little extra effort, except when you express milk and bottle feed. So, having one less chore on the list is a relief — definitely something to appreciate!
Reduces Risk Of Ovarian Cancer
Apart from the decreased likelihood of developing breast cancer, there’s even more good news regarding breastfeeding: it can substantially lower your risk of developing ovarian cancer. By exclusively breastfeeding for six months, you can reduce your chances of developing ovarian cancer by as much as 30%.
This risk reduction is particularly noteworthy because ovarian cancer often remains undetected until it reaches an advanced stage. So, the protective effect of breastfeeding offers a significant advantage in terms of safeguarding against this type of cancer.
Breastfeeding Harmons Make You More Relaxed
When you breastfeed, your body releases hormones that promote milk production and trigger the letdown reflex during feeding. Interestingly, a positive side effect of these hormonal activities is that you’re likely to experience an overall sense of relaxation and reduced stress.
However, it’s important to note that breastfeeding alone cannot completely alleviate all the stresses in your life. While it may not always provide an instant magical relaxation, it can contribute to an improved sense of well-being and help you feel better about things.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for my baby?
Breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for your baby, such as optimal nutrition, antibodies for immune protection, reduced risk of infections, and improved cognitive development.
Does breastfeeding help with bonding between me and my baby?
Yes, breastfeeding promotes bonding through skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, and the release of hormones like oxytocin, which enhances the mother-infant bond.
How long should I breastfeed to reap the benefits?
The longer you breastfeed, the more benefits your baby can receive. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is recommended, with continued breastfeeding alongside complementary foods for at least one year.
Can I breastfeed if I have a low milk supply?
Most women can produce enough milk for their babies with proper support and breastfeeding techniques. Consulting with a lactation consultant can help address concerns and optimize milk supply.
Are there benefits of breastfeeding for preterm or premature babies?
Yes, breastfeeding has numerous advantages for preterm or premature babies, including improved immune system development, reduced risk of infections, and enhanced growth and development
Breastfeeding is undoubtedly a wonderful choice with numerous advantages for both you and your baby, not to mention the positive impact it can have on your family’s finances. However, if circumstances lead you to opt for formula feeding, there’s no need to fret. Your baby will still benefit from the nurturing bond you’ll cultivate, along with having a content and relaxed mother.