If you’re debating whether breastfeeding is right for you and your baby, or even if you just need a little extra motivation, then here are some great reasons to get started.
Breastfeeding is tough, there’s no doubt about it. The newborn phase is intense; sleepless nights, feeding round the clock, learning the nuances of pumps, bottles, etc. It’s an uphill challenge for any new mom. Once you cross the 5-6 month mark, as both you and the baby begin to fall into some sort of rhythm, it gets easier. If you are steadily headed towards completing one year of breastfeeding, it has now become a part of your daily routine with baby. However, don’t be fooled, pass 1 year and you’re in for a whole new set of challenges that come with nursing a toddler!
So many mothers push past all the hurdles, finding the strength to nourish their babies’ day in and day out. How do they do it? What drives them?
As a two-year breastfeeding veteran, I can attest to the fact that you will find support where you least expect it. When you long for encouragement, you may be met with disapproval and of course, there will be those who question your choice. Sometimes, self-doubt starts to creep in and you wonder whether you are strong enough to continue breastfeeding, or brave enough to stop. As you go on this journey, it is important to remind yourself of some of the reasons why we breastfeed our babies, so that you may fully trust your maternal instincts and follow your baby’s cues with confidence.
Read ahead to learn some of the miraculous benefits of breastfeeding.
Benefits to Babies
1. Perfect Baby Food
The tiny, tender tummies of newborns and infants can easily breakdown the proteins in human breast milk. Breastfed babies have fewer stomach upsets, diarrhea, and constipation than babies fed cow milk protein-based infant formula.
The composition of breast milk changes over time. In the very early days after birth, breastfeeding newborns will receive the first milk called colostrum that boosts immunity. It is nature’s superfood, a thick, creamy yellowish liquid that is high in proteins, low in sugar and fat. Subsequently, the mature milk will contain water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and white cells. Mature milk satisfies a baby’s thirst as well as hunger during the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Once solids are introduced, breast milk helps fill any nutritional gaps. Scientific study has found that in the second year postpartum, breast milk contains higher fat content and more antibodies. These enhanced immunological properties greatly benefit breastfeeding toddlers, protecting them from infection, allergies and illnesses.
2. Boosts IQ
The DHA (omega 3 long-chain fatty acids) in breast milk supports healthy brain development in babies. Studies have shown that breastfed infants demonstrate significantly higher IQ by the age of seven. Research has also shown a positive correlation between longer-term breastfeeding and high intelligence scores.
3. Calms and Soothes
Nursing your baby or toddler provides them the closeness, comfort and security that they need during these early years. Breastfeeding soothes and calms baby quickly and easily. Mothers who breastfeed are able to peacefully manage stressful situations such as teething, tantrums and injury.
4. Tailor-Made Medicine
When your baby is sick, the backwash from her saliva on the nipple sends a signal to your body, resulting in the production of breast milk laden with the specific antibodies needed to fight your baby’s infection. This is truly magical. By the second year postpartum, the composition of breast milk changes further, becoming extremely rich in antibodies and white blood cells. Thus, breastfed babies and toddlers tend to recover faster from colds, viruses, and other infections. Breast milk reduces the risk of allergies, SIDS, diabetes, celiac disease, childhood leukemia, respiratory tract and ear infections. Moreover, the protective effects seem to last.
5. More Sleep, Happy Babies
The circadian rhythm is not established in young babies, and so they can’t tell day from night. Nighttime breast milk is rich in both melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) and tryptophan (a sleep-inducing amino-acid) that help regulate baby’s sleep-wake cycles allowing them to sleep for longer stretches at night. For older babies and toddlers, the continued ingestion of tryptophan is beneficial as it promotes serotonin receptor development. Serotonin is a vital hormone that essentially makes the brain function better, keeps one in a good mood, and regulates proper appetite, digestion, sleep and memory.
Benefits to Mothers
6. Burn Calories, Lose Weight Fast
A single day of breastfeeding can burn between 200-500 calories. So, you’ll be able to nourish your baby and get your pre-baby body back at the same time! What could be better than that? When you start nursing, the hormone oxytocin causes the uterus to shrink back to its original size. After 3 months of lactation, fat burning kicks in and the pregnancy weight will steadily begin to fall off. SInce it takes so much of a mother’s energy to make milk for the baby, breastfeeding mothers are advised to consume an additional 500 calories per day to optimally meet their daily caloric needs.
7. Quick, Easy and Convenient
Your baby can get hungry anytime and anywhere. Breast milk is the perfect food on the go. No hassle of washing bottles or warming the milk to just the right temperature, just let baby latch on and you’re good to go! At night, many breastfeeding mothers enjoy the ease and convenience of being able to feed their babies without getting up from the bed. This also means that moms can go right back to sleep once baby’s tummy is full.
8. Strengthens Mother-Baby Bonding
Breastfeeding mothers often report heightened maternal instincts, and feeling completely in tune with their baby’s moods and needs. This emotional connection that nursing moms experience is not just a feeling, it has a scientific basis. The hormones oxytocin and prolactin released during nursing, induce a state of calm and encourage feelings of affection between mother and baby. The act of breastfeeding itself enhances closeness through skin-to-skin contact, cuddles, smiles and direct eye contact. It is empowering to feed your baby your breastmilk watch them grow.
9. Delays Periods, A Natural Contraceptive
Breastfeeding delays the menstrual cycle by several months, the extent of the delay is dependent on how much and how often the baby feeds. During the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding, a lactating woman is protected from pregnancy (98 – 99% effectiveness as a natural contraceptive).
10. Reduced Risk of Diseases
There are many benefits to breastfeeding that positively impact a woman’s postpartum health. These include a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Mood-boosting hormones are released that lower anxiety and reduce a mothers risk of postpartum depression