Like most things in the realm of pregnancy and parenting, the conversation around breastfeeding has evolved over the years. With more and more women being vocal about their challenges around latching, milk production, and the confusion about the benefits of breast milk over formula, many new moms are beginning to rule out breastfeeding without first considering it.
Whether you’re thinking about formula, feeding your child directly from your breast, or pumping your breast milk, it’s important to understand why millions of women, past and present, choose breastfeeding for their children.
1. Breast Milk Can Lead To Smarter Children
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is linked to better performance on intelligence tests and higher school attendance. Some studies suggest that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop behavioral problems as they age. These babies benefit since breastfeeding has significant positive effects on babies’ long-term brain development and is even associated with higher income in adult life.
2. Breast Milk Is An Excellent Food Option For Newborns
Not only does momma’s milk provide ideal nutrition, but it’s also easy on your wallet. Let’s start with the nutrition side of things. Breast milk contains everything a 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.
Additionally, breastfeeding can be significantly cheaper than choosing formula for your baby. It’s mostly free except for a few main expenses like lactation consulting and breast pumps. By nursing, you skip the cost of formula, time spent sterilizing bottles, the time and energy spent making formula, ensuring it’s at the right temperature, and heating up formula while on-the-go.
3. Breastfeeding Helps Your Uterus Contract
You witnessed it first-hand—your uterus grew from the size of an apple to the size of a watermelon by your third trimester. Thankfully, your uterus never stays that large. During delivery, it goes through a process called “involution”, which helps it return to its previous size. Additionally, the hormone oxytocin increases throughout pregnancy and helps your uterus contract. Oxytocin is also released in high quantities during breastfeeding, helping you bond with your little one and continue the “involution” process to shrink your uterus down to its regular size.
4. Breastfeeding Supports Your Health and Wellness
Breastfeeding can be difficult, painful, and tough to squeeze in if you're a working mom. However, breastfeeding can help you recover mentally, emotionally, and physically after a long 9 months of being pregnant and the pain of delivery. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum depression (PPD), a type of depression that can develop shortly after childbirth. Compared with women who don’t nurse, women who breastfeed have a lower chance of developing PPD.
Breastfeeding also helps prevents ovarian and breast cancer and is proven to lower your risk of issues such as high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
5. Breast Milk Helps Protect Your Baby’s Health
Babies are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to infection and disease prevention. That’s why quickly and safely boosting babies’ immunity is critical in the first few months and years of life; breast milk can play an essential role in protecting infants.
Breast milk is full of antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. When you’re exposed to viruses or bacteria, your body starts producing antibodies that then go into the milk. First milk/colostrum is especially high value; this is a form of milk produced in late pregnancy and the few days after giving birth and provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies. IgA protects the baby from getting sick by forming a protective layer in the baby’s nose, throat, and digestive system.
That babies who are not breastfed are more vulnerable to health issues like the following:
* Middle ear infections
* Respiratory tract infections
* Colds and infections
* Gut infections
* Intestinal tissue damage
* Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Please talk to your doctor about your general health and any infections or illnesses you have that may compromise your ability to breastfeed. If you’re committed to nursing your newborn, know that you may face common issues like latching or nipple pain but they’re easily treatable with advice from your physician.