DID YOU KNOW? Northeast Missouri Health Council has a Certified Lactation Consultant available through the OB/Gyn Specialty Group? Meet Angie Shuey, WHNP, and learn more about her here.
Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has the right amount of nutrients, is easily digested, and is readily available. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and continuing even after solid foods are introduced, until at least age 1 year or until both mom and baby agree to call it quits.
While breastfeeding is not an option for all mothers, the AAP still encourages mothers to try for both the health of mom and baby. Here are some science-based benefits of breastfeeding that are amazing for you and for your little one.
Breast milk provides ideal nutrition for babies.
Most healthcare professionals recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months or much longer. Breast milk contains everything baby needs for the first 6 months of life, in all the right proportions. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life. During the first days after birth, your breasts produce a thick and yellowish fluid called colostrum. It’s high in protein, low in sugar, and loaded with beneficial compounds. It’s truly a wonder food and not replaceable by formula. Colostrum is the ideal first milk and helps the newborn’s immature digestive tract develop. After the first few days, the breasts start producing larger amounts of milk as the baby’s stomach grows.
Breast milk contains important antibodies.
Breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria, which is critical in those tender, early months. This particularly applies to colostrum, the first milk. Colostrum provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies. When you’re exposed to viruses or bacteria, you start producing antibodies that then go into the milk. It’s immunity, baby! IgA protects the baby from getting sick by forming a protective layer in the baby’s nose, throat, and digestive system. Formula doesn’t provide antibody protection for babies. Numerous studies show that babies who are not breastfed are more vulnerable to health issues like pneumonia, diarrhea, and infection.
Breastfeeding might reduce disease risk.
Exclusive breastfeeding, meaning that the infant receives only breast milk, is particularly beneficial. It may reduce your baby’s risk for many illnesses and diseases, including:
Middle ear infections. Breastfeeding, particularly exclusively and as long as possible, may protect against middle ear, throat, and sinus infections well beyond infancy.
Respiratory tract infections. Breastfeeding can protect against multiple respiratory and gastrointestinal acute illnesses.
Colds and infections. Babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months may have a lower risk of getting serious colds and ear or throat infections.
Gut infections. Breastfeeding is linked with a reduction in gut infections.
Intestinal tissue damage. Feeding preterm babies breast milk is linked with a reduction in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding is linked to a reduced risk of SIDS, especially when breastfeeding exclusively.
Allergic diseases. Breastfeeding is linked to a reduced risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema.
Bowel diseases. Babies who are breastfed may be less likely to develop Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Diabetes. Breastfeeding is linked to a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes.
Childhood leukemia. Breastfeeding is linked to a reduction in the risk for childhood leukemia.
Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract.
During pregnancy, your uterus grows immensely, expanding from the size of a pear to filling almost the entire space of your abdomen. After delivery, your uterus goes through a process called involution, which helps it return to its previous size. Oxytocin, a hormone that increases throughout pregnancy, helps drive this process. Your body secretes high amounts of oxytocin during labor to help deliver the baby and reduce bleeding. It can also help you bond with your new little one. Oxytocin also increases during breastfeeding. It encourages uterine contractions and reduces bleeding, helping the uterus return to its previous size. Studies have also shown that mothers who breastfeed generally have less blood loss after delivery and faster involution of the uterus.
Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk for depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that can develop shortly after childbirth. Women who breastfeed seem less likely to develop postpartum depression, compared to mothers who wean early or do not breastfeed, according to a 2012 study. However, those who experience postpartum depression early after delivery are also more likely to have trouble breastfeeding and do so for a shorter duration. If you have any symptoms of PPD, tell your doctor as soon as possible.
Breastfeeding reduces your disease risk.
Breastfeeding seems to provide you with long-term protectionTrusted Source against cancer and several diseases. The total time a woman spends breastfeeding is linked with a reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Women who breastfeed have a lower risk for:
high blood pressure
high blood fats
type 2 diabetes
Breastfeeding helps save time and money.
To top the list, breastfeeding is mostly free, barring expenses for any lactation consulting and breast pumps. By choosing to breastfeed, you won’t have to:
spend money on formula
calculate how much your baby needs to drink daily
spend time cleaning and sterilizing bottles
mix and warm up bottles in the middle of the night (or day)
figure out ways to warm up bottles while on the go
Breast milk is always at the right temperature and ready to drink.