We’ve all heard it from the time we could remember… breast is best. We know a few facts about the benefits of breastfeeding- maternal antibodies, mother/baby bonding, and being economical. Our obstetricians, our pediatricians, our mothers, our friends, and even nosy-neighbor next door recommend that moms should all breastfeed their babies at least until they are 6 months old, right? Due to this over-emphasis, we may actually forget what those benefits are to breastfeeding. There’s an insane amount of information out there! You can get lost in the literal sea of breast milk education. So, I’ve provided you with some general but good researched facts below.
Let’s talk about the actual “breast milk”. Breast milk cannot be duplicated by any artificial means. So far, not even the most gifted researchers can do this! And this is why:
- It contains the perfect balance of nutrients that the baby can easily digest
- It changes over time to meet the versatile needs of a growing baby.. even during the course of the day!
- It has substances that are essential for the development of the baby’s brain.
- It supplies growth factors that combine to mature the baby’s gut
- It provides the baby with immunity factors to fight allergens and illnesses that are specific to Mom’s and Baby’s environment.
Children who are breastfed :
- Are less likely to suffer from infectious illness and their symptoms (diarrhea, ear infections, upper respiratory infections)
- Have lower incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- Have a lower risk for the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Score higher on IQ tests and cognitive tests at school age
- Have fewer cavities and are less likely to have braces
And of course, the benefits for moms are:
- The best one I think is that you lose that pregnancy weight rather easily (assuming you are eating the right foods and are at least walking as some form of exercise) because breastfeeding requires about 500 calories of effort a day! That’s like walking on the treadmill for 2 hours at a moderate pace or running for more than an hour every day!
- Did you know breastfeeding reduces osteoporosis?
- You don’t have a period for a long time! If you are breastfeeding exclusively, it may postpone your menstrual cycle for 20-30 cycles! (I breastfed my daughter for almost 2 years and didn’t have my cycle return until the month AFTER I weaned her! Woo-hoo!)
- Decreased risk of postpartum hemorrhage due to the constant uterine contractions that you feel every time you breastfeed.
- Less likely to develop ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.
This is not to say that moms who chose to bottle feed or supplement breastfeeding with formula should feel badly or “less of a mom” when feeding their babies formula. Remember, what is important is that your baby is receiving the love, attention, and nutrition that will help him or her grow as healthy as possible. Whatever way you decide for that to be, it will be…
Article written by Suzette C. Boyette, ARNP, MSN, Center of Reproductive Medicine, Adjunct Faculty UCF College of Nursing, Co-Founder of Parents Everywhere, Inc. Qigong Practitioner/Instructor, Reiki Practitioner