36 Benefits of Breastfeeding for You and Your Baby
You've likely heard "breast is best," but why? Here are 36 awesome ways that breastfeeding benefits you and your baby.
You've probably heard that breastfeeding benefits babies. But do you know all the benefits of breastfeeding for moms, too? Both mama and baby can -- and do -- reap many short- and long-term rewards.
Aside from being exclusively made by the mother for the infant, breast milk has benefits that extend beyond nutrition. "Breastfeeding is more than just a method to feed your baby," says Leigh Anne O'Connor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in New York City. "It fulfills many needs -- the need to be fed, the need to be held -- and through it, the babies' systems are regulated -- temperature, breathing and heartbeat.
For the mom, she also learns to trust her instincts as she and her baby get into synchrony. This may not happen immediately, but the process of holding and nursing your baby builds a beautiful intimacy that is unlike any other."
The benefits of breastfeeding are so numerous, the World Health Organization recommends infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding until age 2 or beyond. While that is the optimal recommendation, any breastfeeding is better than none. "Breastfeeding is definitely a commitment, and mothers should not feel guilty if they are unable to provide milk for two years," notes Hannah Kull, a pediatric nurse practitioner with Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. "Any amount of breast milk given to your baby is a gift and will help decrease disease and infection for your baby."
O'Conner and Kull share these 36 benefits:
Benefits for Your Baby
- Your baby has a decreased risk of infectious diseases.
- Your bonding with your baby is improved. "Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with mom have been shown to help with the maternal-infant bonding process," says Kull.
- Breastfeeding reduces your baby's risk of ear infection.
- Breastfed babies are shown to have a higher IQ.
- Your baby has a reduced incidence of obesity in childhood and adulthood.
- Thanks to the antibodies in breast milk, your baby will have a stronger immune system.
- Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of heart disease later in life.
- Breastfeeding is said to build confidence in older babies.
- Breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced incidence of asthma.
- Your baby will have better oral development.
- Breastfeeding has been linked to improved visual acuity.
- Breastfed babies have a reduced incidence of eczema and other skin conditions.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk for sudden infant death syndrome by as much as 50 percent.
- Your baby is less likely to develop type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula.
- Breastfeeding can protect against the development of Crohn's disease.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance that your baby will develop allergies.
- You can settle your baby back to sleep faster.
- Breastfeed babies are less cavity-prone.
- Your baby is less likely to be constipated, and his diapers smell better than those of formula-fed babies.
- You return to pre-pregnancy weight faster, since breastfeeding burns approximately 400 to 500 calories per day.
- You reduce your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- It's way cheaper than formula! The Le Leche League International says being able to skip the formula aisle at your grocery stores saves between $1,608 and $5,900 a year.
- No bottles to wash!
- Breast milk is always the perfect temperature.
Benefits for You
- The uterus shrinks faster in breastfeeding mothers.
- You gain a strong sense of empowerment as you see your body supporting and feeding your baby.
- You have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
- You have a faster recovery from labor and delivery. Breastfeeding may also reduce postpartum bleeding.
- You can easily soothe your baby through comfort nursing.
- Exclusive breastfeeding releases prolactin, which extends the amount of time you are period-free after delivering your baby.
- Working moms may miss fewer days of work, as breastfed babies are statistically less likely to get sick.
- You can spend more time sleeping when you don't have to prepare bottles.
- You never have to worry about a formula recall.
- It's better for the environment, as you aren't throwing away formula cans or using water to wash bottles.
- You have less to pack when leaving the house or going on a trip.
And the list goes on! What's your favorite reason for breastfeeding?
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Victoria Georgoff is a freelance writer and psychotherapist who enjoys writing about parenting, helping other parents and, of course, being a parent herself.
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