To breastfeed or not to breastfeed: You’ve probably debated this question.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and continuing breastfeeding once solid foods are introduced, until at least the age of 1 or until both mom and baby agree to call it quits.
You may have come across information about breast milk being the right food from the very start. It’s true: Breast milk comes with just the right balance of nutrients for your baby, starting with the fat- and antibody-rich colostrum your body produces immediately after giving birth.
You may have also heard that your baby’s
Breastfeeding can even help you by decreasing the amount of postpartum bleeding you experience after giving birth when you start breastfeeding immediately. It can also reduce your future risk of cardiovascular diseases,
But there are some more amazing and unexpected benefits that breastfeeding provides for you and your baby, according to the latest research.
Breastfeeding provides baby with custom-made antibodies
The first milk gives your baby an extra helping on immunoglobulins, which are complex molecules that help boost their immature immune system. That means your body will produce antibodies based on what you come in contact with.
In other words, exposure to various pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, can amp up your own immune system. This will in turn produce antibodies that your baby will get through your milk that may help protect them, just like in the womb.
Breastfeeding provides a feel-good hormone boost
Breastfeeding, through the hormone oxytocin,
Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” and helps secure the bond between you and your partner, too.
Breastmilk provides the perfect nutrients
Remember the recommendation that you should eat what’s in season? Your baby gets perfectly tailored food for all seasons. Your breast milk may be more watery in the summer, and thicker and higher in fat during the cold months.
Breastfeeding is the perfect way to keep baby hydrated, satiated, and never too far away from their source of food. You’re better than a farmer’s market!
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
A 2017 review of studies (meta-analysis) concluded that breastfeeding for at least 2 months halved the risk of SIDS. Just make sure to put the baby back in their crib or bassinet before going back to sleep.
Most experts and children’s health organizations, including the AAP, oppose bed sharing due to possible risks of smothering the baby.
The AAP recommends room sharing, which means having baby within arm’s reach in a crib by the bed, bassinet, or cot, so that you can nurse as often as needed.
Breastfeeding lowers your risk of postpartum depression
Breastfeeding your baby may give you a boost in self-esteem
If the ups and downs caused by postpartum hormones plus an irregular and insufficient sleep schedule affects your mood, we’re not surprised. It’s a huge shake-up and feeling off (or worse) is common.
That’s one reason to hold your baby close and nurse them. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic note it can boost your confidence as you see your little one growing and developing with what your body provides.
As a bonus, you’re also getting a boost of oxytocin that promotes stress reduction and positive feelings.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cancer
The results are in, and they support previous research. Your risk of breast cancer may be reduced by about
In the study review (meta-analysis), the risk of ovarian cancer was reduced by
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
In a world where so much can increase diabetes risk (lack of exercise, obesity, and depression), simply cuddling with baby and nursing them could reduce the risk for both of you.
Breastfeeding can encourage you to make healthier food choices
As your tiredness levels increase and you crave comfort food, the thought that your little one depends on you for good and healthy nutrients may help you opt for better food choices.
Nutrients get routed to your breast milk first, so eating healthier foods will make sure you also get the proper nourishment and adequate energy to best care for your little one.
Breastfeeding can help the planet
Yes, you read that correctly. Less demand for formula means fewer cows, which means less methane released into the atmosphere. Good for the baby in the long run? You bet.
On top of it, breast milk comes with its own package, thus reducing the garbage burden on Mother Earth. It’s always the right temperature and ready to drink.
In choosing to breastfeed, you’ve made a decision that ensures great health for both you and baby, in the short and long run. But breastfeeding comes with a few sacrifices as well, though they’re well worth it and temporary.
You may have to reduce your regular java intake for a while
Caffeine in large amounts is not ideal for your newborn, so reduce your consumption to a maximum of two to three 8-ounce cups per day.
Or consider going coffee-free for a while if you notice unexplained restlessness or jitteriness in your baby.
You may have to forgo alcoholic drinks
Not drinking any alcohol while breastfeeding is the safest choice, but some experts think
It’s important to remember that if there’s alcohol in your system, there’s alcohol in your breast milk.
Please remember that alcohol can make you less responsive to baby’s needs. And, if you have consumed alcohol, it’s extra important not to sleep on the same bed with your baby.
Yes, you’re on call
Day or night, you’re on. When you’re feeling the pressure, remind yourself of all the good reasons why you chose to breastfeed.
Make sure to take short breaks to care for yourself. Your body and mind are doing a lot of work. Your needs are important can easily fall by the wayside during these early months.
The list could go on, and chances are that research will keep bringing more arguments in favor of breastfeeding. Breast milk is nothing short of miraculous.
As an extra benefit, ask any seasoned parent about those first cuddles, and they’ll tell you the big secret: It goes by fast. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, enjoy every second of being close to your baby.