For sure you have already heard so much hype about the good that breastfeeding brings. If you are wondering why a lot of emphases is placed on it, you may find this list of proven breastfeeding benefits to be super helpful in your knowledge quest.
In this article:
- Benefits for your baby
- Benefits for the mom
- Benefits for society
- Benefits for the environment
Breastfeeding Benefits for Your Baby
Gives the best nutrition
Your breastmilk is your baby’s superfood! In fact, most reputable institutions such as the World Health Organization and the La Leche League state that exclusive breastfeeding is the best for babies up to six months. When exclusively breastfeeding, there is no need for water or other food. Beyond that, breastmilk is still good with complementary solid foods for up to two years and beyond. There is no limit as to what age a baby or a child should stop breastfeeding!
1. Colostrum — Coined as liquid gold for its thick, yellowish texture, colostrum is the milk that is best for your newborn! It is packed with antibodies, nutrients, and protein. It is also low in sugar which is just what a newborn needs!
2. Mature milk — Three to five days after giving birth, your colostrum turns into mature milk. This time, it is higher in sugar and volume compared to colostrum. This is a perfect fit for your baby’s growing needs.
3. Protein — Your breastmilk is filled with different kinds of protein that will protect your baby from different kinds of illnesses and help your baby grow stronger and healthier.
4. Fat — Healthy fat is also a major source of energy for your baby and also needed for developing different body organs.
5. Carbohydrates — Not just a major source of calories, carbohydrates also help your child better absorb nutrients and build up his defense against sickness.
6. Vitamins — The more vitamins the mother intakes, the more vitamins are transferred into the milk as well.
Helps adjust to the outside world
Newborns are very vulnerable. For the first time, they are outside the warmth and protection that the womb provides and are adjusting to the outside world. Breastfeeding is the best way to help a baby face the challenges of the world outside the womb.
7. Easy to digest — Compared to formula, breastmilk is easier for babies to digest. It contains just the right proportions of protein that will help your baby’s small tummy get the best nutrition.
8. Easy meconium removal — Meconium is the dark, sticky waste that is first secreted by the newborn. Colostrum helps meconium be removed from his system.
9. Rich in antibodies — Immunoglobulins helps the baby form a good immune system to ward off illnesses. It forms a protective layer on your baby’s vulnerable digestive tract.
10. Protects from infection — Since you are helping form the first digestive protection of your baby, you are also protecting your little one from infections like gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis causes diarrhea and vomiting as it inflames your baby’s digestive tract.
11. Gut protection — Did you know that a newborn’s tummy is as small as a marble? Your breastmilk helps his tummy grow and function.
Builds the first line of defense
A baby’s immune system is still very weak. Breastfeeding will help him form the first line of defense against illnesses.
12. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — SIDS is the unexplainable death of infants under 12 months. Truly, it devastating! Studies suggest that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from SIDS by approximately 50% compared to babies who are not breastfed.
13. Ear infections — Ear infections are commonly caused by colds. Infections in the middle ear leading to painful ears, difficulty in hearing, restlessness, or fever. Breastfeeding prevents this from happening.
14. Diarrhea — Your breastmilk is always in the best condition. There is no risk of contaminants or parasites which can be picked up by the baby from water or unsterilized feeding equipment.
15. Necrotizing Enterocolitis — Premature babies are especially vulnerable to this disease that affects the infant’s intestine. Breastmilk surely does help protect your baby’s intestine.
16. Respiratory Illnesses — Colds and cough are common enough. However, your baby is still very susceptible to diseases so a common cough or cold could potentially lead to something worse.
Protects against allergies
There is a rising incidence of allergies among infants and children, and some studies correlate this to the lowering rates of breastfeeding all around the world.
17. Asthma — Babies with asthma exhibit difficult and labored breathing. While it is still debated whether breastmilk actually prevents asthma, it can prevent infections that may set off asthma.
18. Eczema — Eczema is described as crusty, red patches on the skin of the infant, usually occurring on the face and later on to the limbs. Eczema is set off by hypersensitivity to triggers so breastmilk helps the baby’s defenses become less sensitive to them.
19. Allergic Rhinitis — Allergic rhinitis symptoms include a runny nose, clogged nasal passages, watery eyes, and sneezing. There are studies that suggest that breastfeeding for the baby’s first three months prevents Allergic Rhinitis occurrence.
20. Food Allergies — If a baby is breastfed for at least four months, food allergies may be prevented.
Adjusts to baby’s needs
What’s really amazing about your breastmilk is that it continually changes and adjusts to your baby’s needs! When your baby suckles, receptors from your breast send signals to your body.
21. When you are sick, antibodies transfer to your baby — There are some who believe that when a mother is sick, she should not breastfeed her baby. This is not true for most cases. In fact, this may be beneficial for your baby! A mother produces antibodies as she is exposed to viruses or bacteria, and this is transferred to the baby through breastmilk.
22. When your baby is sick, your milk composition changes — The entero-mammary pathway is what connects a mother’s digestive system to her mammary glands. As receptors in the breast send signals to the body that a baby is sick, the gut sends antibodies that correspond to the baby’s needs.
Protects from diseases in the long run
The effects of breastfeeding are not only short term, but its effects can be felt in the long run.
23. Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes — Studies about breastmilk preventing diabetes are inconclusive, but there are some showing that introducing formula before the baby is three months increases the chances of the child developing diabetes later in life.
24. Heart disease — Breastfeeding is not only good in preventing future cardiovascular issues but also helpful for babies with congenital heart defects.
25. Crohn’s Disease — Studies show that those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s Disease are more often formula-fed rather than breastfed.
26. Cancer — There is a reduced risk of acquiring childhood leukemia for children who were breastfed for at least six months.
27. Hodgkin’s Disease — There is also reduced risks of Hodgkin’s Disease, a kind of lymphoma, for children who are breastfed.
28. Celiac Disease — This disease is a severe reaction to gluten that damages the intestines, making it hard for making food choices. There is a lower risk of getting Celiac Disease when gluten is gradually introduced while the infant is still breastfed.
29. Helps maintain a good weight
Breastfeeding lowers the risk of your child being obese or overweight by 15 to 30%. This is because of the leptin in your milk that helps control your child’s appetite. Moreover, breastmilk is easy to digest and your child controls the intake of milk when breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding also postpones the introduction of solid foods that may lead to obesity.
30. Helps eyesight
The DHA in your milk will help your baby develop his eyesight. While DHA may be added to formula milk, experts say that nothing beats the natural DHA found in breastmilk. Furthermore, when your baby nurses, his fixation on your face significantly helps develop his eyesight.
Keeps teeth healthy
There is a myth that breastfeeding causes bad teeth, so some moms wean their babies early. However, the opposite is actually true.
31. Good bite — Breastfeeding helps your child avoid misaligned teeth.
32. Good jaw development — Suckling aids your child’s jaw development.
33. Avoid crooked teeth — Breastfeeding helps your child avoid thumbsucking that may lead to crooked teeth or malocclusion.
34. Avoid discoloration — Through breastfeeding, yellowed teeth may be avoided because your breastmilk has just the right amount of fluoride.
35. Avoid tooth decay — Bottle-feeding tends to make milk pool inside your baby’s mouth, leading to higher risks of calories and tooth decay. On the other hand, in breastfeeding, your child’s suckling controls the amount of milk that enters his mouth, which is swallowed right away. This avoids milk from filling up in his mouth.
36. Helps develop good sleeping patterns
Breastmilk contains hormones that help your baby become sleepy after feeding. This also helps him develop a healthy circadian rhythm.
37. Gives comfort
Breastfeeding is more than just getting nourishment. It provides warmth, security, and comfort to your little one. Soon enough, you would find that your child would want to nurse not just because he is hungry, but because he tired, upset, wants to be comforted, or even just bored.
38. Makes bond with mother stronger
Skin-to-skin contact, cuddling, and nursing all contribute to that intimate relationship that a mother has with his child. This is explained by the rush of oxytocin in the mother’s brain that happens as the baby suckles.
Helps overall development
There are just so many benefits of breastfeeding for your child that goes beyond the short-term.
39. Accepting different food types — Did you know that breastfeeding will help your child not become a picky eater? This is because he gets used to subtle changes in the taste of your milk which is constantly affected by the food that you eat.
40. Social development — Your bond with your baby makes much of what he would expect in relationships. Since breastfeeding helps you form an intimate bond with your child, he will become more secure in his later relationships.
41. Cognitive development — Studies about breastfeeding helping your child be smarter are inconclusive. However, there are some that state that breastfed kids have higher intelligence scores compared to those who were formula-fed. Brain development may also be associated with the hand-touch coordination that is practiced when nursing.
42. Motor skills and facial muscles — Breastfeeding early into infancy is tied up with the development of motor skills in late childhood and early adolescence. Suckling also helps develop facial muscles.
43. Language development — Suckling requires more muscle movement compared to bottle feeding. It helps the baby develop coordination of their jaw, tongue, mouth, and lips. Studies also recommend breastfeeding past infancy to bring out the most of its good effects on language development.
44. Independence and confidence — The bonding between mother and child may also have long-term effects in the way the child forms relationships with others.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mom
Helps recover faster after delivery
Breastfeeding benefits not only babies but also mothers!
45. Reduced bleeding — Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding. This helps a mom who has just delivered her baby recover faster.
46. Uterus returning to original size — During pregnancy, the uterus takes up almost half the space of your abdomen. Oxytocin helps your uterus return back to its pre-pregnancy size.
Benefits for emotional and mental health
Breastfeeding does not only benefit the mother physically!
47. Prevents postpartum depression — Breastfeeding is linked with reduced risks of postpartum depression up to at least four months after delivery. Consequently, postpartum depression leads to decreased rates of breastfeeding. Therefore, breastfeeding and postpartum depression are closely linked.
48. Helps form bond with baby — Oxytocin also happens to be the love hormones that help a mother develop maternal instincts. Breastfeeding also helps make your baby feel loved and secured.
49. A sense of achievement and empowerment — Nothing is more empowering for a mom than seeing her little one take nourishment from her. It is truly awe-inspiring to experience for yourself that your body is literally giving and sustaining the life of another human being.
Prevention of diseases
Just as breastfeeding has immediate and long-term benefits for babies, the same is also true for moms!
50. Breast cancer — Not only does breastfeeding lower the risk of breast cancer, but prolonged breastfeeding even lowers the chances that a mom may acquire breast cancer in the long run.
51. Ovarian cancer — In the same manner, breastfeeding moms have a lower chance of developing ovarian cancer, and this goes even lower with prolonged breastfeeding.
52. Endometrial cancer — Endometrial cancer has been becoming increasingly common. It is a good thing, therefore, that breastfeeding lowers the risk of acquiring endometrial cancer.
53. Type 2 diabetes — Studies show that the chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes are reduced if a mother breastfeeds for at least 6 months. They suggest that this is because breastfeeding improves the mother’s glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Gives a lot of other physical benefits
Not only are illnesses prevented by breastfeeding, it also provides a multitude of other physical benefits!
54. Weight loss — Breastfeeding takes up around 500-600 calories a day. In the long run, it helps a mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight faster.
55. Stronger bones — During breastfeeding, the mother’s body becomes more effective in absorbing calcium, thus strengthening her bones and reducing chances of developing osteoporosis.
56. Postpones periods — Prolactin, the key hormone responsible for lactation, also prevents ovulation.
57. Wider pregnancy spacing — The more frequently a mother breastfeeds, the higher the chances of having a wider spacing between pregnancies. Breastfeeding in a way acts as a natural contraceptive.
Makes life easier for mom
Let’s face it – breastfeeding is just convenient in so many ways!
58. No need to sterilize feeding equipment — Steal a few more minutes of rest since you do not need to spend time cleaning feeding equipment.
59. No need to prepare formula — Night feedings are made easier if you do not have to measure and mix formula.
60. No need to fear contamination — Fears still linger even if you sterilize feeding equipment. With breastfeeding, you can rest assured that your baby gets the best nutrition minus the risk of contamination.
61. It’s always just right — You do not have to worry if your milk is too hot or too cool, because your breastmilk is always in the right temperature! What’s more, if your baby is sick, your milk naturally changes in composition to suit his needs. Formula milk cannot do this.
62. Travelling made easier — If you are traveling with your little one, you do not have to fuss about carrying a lot of feeding equipment, or worrying about preparing a sterile, contamination-free source of nutrition for your baby. Your body is enough to fill his needs!
When you are breastfeeding, you literally need nothing else than your own body.
63. No need to buy feeding equipment — If you are breastfeeding, you can save up a lot on bottles and other feeding paraphernalia.
64. No need to buy formula — If you are not buying formula, you can save around $1500 per year!
65. Less medical expense — Since breastfeeding helps your baby develop a good immune system, you do not have to worry much about spending on your baby’s medical expenses.
66. Wiser lifestyle choices
Statistics show that breastfeeding mothers tend to have better lifestyle choices since they often take into consideration their child’s well-being. For example, smokers who have stopped smoking during pregnancy are more likely to not pick up smoking again if they are breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Society
67. Government saves up on healthcare expenditures — Research shows that if 90% percent of American families breastfeed for at least 6 months, the government would save up around $13 billion on medical costs per year.
68. Helps the economy — Since breastfed babies tend to be healthier, working parents need not spend extra time off work to care for their babies.
69. Helps when disasters strike — Preparing formula will be difficult and even impossible when disasters strike. Breastfeeding will always be beneficial when it comes to emergency situations.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Environment
70. Breastfeeding does not contribute to global warming — A large percentage of greenhouse gas contributors actually come from agriculture. This is because of the methane produced by cows. In a small way, you are helping the environment when you breastfeed.
71. Breastfeeding does not generate trash — When you are breastfeeding, you do not have to throw away bottles or formula cans.
72. Breastmilk is a renewable source — Nourishing your child does not have to cause so much damage to the environment, as your breastmilk is an excellent, renewable source of nutrition.
From this list of breastfeeding benefits, we find that breastfeeding is advantageous not only for babies, but also for mothers and society as a whole. All these benefits do not mean that formula-feeding is wrong, however. At the end of the day, the decision to breastfeed still rests on both mother and her little one.