If you’re like most people, you’ve probably had few conversations and read even fewer articles about breastfeeding. And, unless you are about to give birth in the next couple of weeks, you probably weren’t planning on reading about breastfeeding today.
In the past, you may have given little thought about breastfeeding, and that’s OK. It can be a sensitive topic for a lot of people. However, I encourage you to begin thinking of breastfeeding in a positive way. The benefits are so significant for moms and babies, that we can’t allow conversations around breastfeeding to be taboo or uncomfortable. Because of the benefits to mom and baby, breastfeeding should matter to all of us.
The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous.
- Gives your baby a jump-start to life.
- Eases digestion (easier to digest breast milk vs. formula).
- Decreases rate of obesity, infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and some childhood cancers.
- Decreases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Facilitates bonding between mom and baby.
- Improves brain and cognitive skills (thinking and reasoning).
- Quickens recovery and healing for mom (decreases bleeding and uterus returns to normal size sooner).
- Burns extra calories for mom, helping her to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight sooner.
- Reduces rates of breast and ovarian cancers in women who breastfeed.
So let’s talk a little more about some of the benefits of breastfeeding:
Gives your baby a jump-start to life
Your baby gets a jump-start to life because human milk is made up of exactly what a baby needs to thrive, and can be easier for a baby to digest than formula. Breast milk, unlike formula, changes during a feeding and over time, to meet the needs of a growing baby. For instance, at the beginning of a feeding the breast milk is made of water and sugar, but becomes fatty and higher in protein as the baby suckles. Over time, as the baby ages, the milk changes to meet developing and immediate needs too. For instance, when your baby is sick or exposed to an illness, milk changes to produce more illness-specific antibodies. Researchers believe the baby, through its saliva, passes cues to mom’s body, instructing it to produce milk containing more of what baby needs, including antibodies.
Health benefits for baby
Breastfeeding decreases the rates of obesity, infections, diabetes, asthma, and even some cancers for breastfed kids. Fewer medical conditions and complications mean fewer trips to the doctor or hospital. But, did you know that babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)?
Bonding between mom and baby
Breastfeeding improves bonding between the mother and the baby. The benefits are even greater for babies who are born early or have a low birth weight!
Improved cognitive skills
Breastfed babies have improved thinking and reasoning skills later in life. Studies have shown that the children who were breastfed for at least 6 months had better problem-solving skills and were not as hyperactive at 3 years old. Breast milk contains the essential fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA or AA that promote the development of the brain and nervous system, thereby equipping breastfed babies with increased cognitive abilities.
Benefits for mom
Don’t worry; mom has almost as many immediate and long-term benefits as the baby! Right after the baby is born, putting the baby to the breast can help decrease bleeding and even help the uterus shrink back down to its normal size faster. Breastfeeding can burn extra calories per day helping a woman get back to her pre-pregnancy weight in a healthy way and a healthy period of time. We also know that rates of breast and ovarian cancers are lower in women who breastfeed! These women also have lower rates of diabetes and high blood pressure.
By now, you have probably noticed my passion around breastfeeding. I want moms-to-be and families to feel comfortable talking about it. It is not always an easy thing to do, but health care providers are here to coach, educate and support women who are interested in breastfeeding. We have many resources we can share including some awesome stuff to read, contact information for lactation consultants, and more.
Most women make the decision on how they will feed their child before pregnancy or very early in pregnancy, so now is the time to have those conversations with the people around you. If you are newly pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, please start the conversation with your OB/GYN early, so that you can get as much information as possible to set you and your baby up for success.