Choosing how you feed your baby is a personal decision that can only be made by you. Whether you choose to breastfeed for a few days, weeks, months or years, there are many benefits to be aware of when making your decision. Breastfeeding can benefit both you and your baby.
The World Health Organization recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months and can be continued for as long as both mother and baby desire.
Breastfeeding is the most natural form of nutrition for babies. Just as other animals feed their babies with their own milk, the same applies to human babies. Breastfeeding is the way all babies were meant to be fed. In most cases, it is the safest and simplest way to feed your baby. Breast milk is the perfect first food for human babies and nutritionally meets the demands of a growing human baby.
- Contains more than 200 nutrients
- Is always ready
- Is clean and safe
- Is never too hot or too cold
What are the benefits for baby?
Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a perfect mix of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat–everything your baby needs to grow. It is also very easily digested and comfortable on baby’s immature digestive system. Breast milk provides abundant and easily absorbed nutritional components, antioxidants, enzymes, immune properties, and live antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Mother’s more mature immune system makes antibodies to the germs to which she and her baby have been exposed. These antibodies enter her milk to help protect her baby from illness. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.
Breastfeeding has been linked to better brain development and higher IQ scores in later childhood. The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children since breastfed babies feed on demand and can’t overeat. A breastfed baby has to have an appetite to nurse. Babies can control how much they drink when at the breast. They can be latched to the breast and not suck at all or delatch whenever they please.
Breastfed babies are healthier. They tend to have:
- Fewer ear infections
- Less gas, constipation, and diarrhea
- Less risk of pneumonia
- Less risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Less risk of obesity in childhood
- Less risk of diabetes
Are there benefits to mom?
Breastfeeding isn’t just something that is good for baby — it’s associated with improved outcomes for moms. Breastfeeding burns extra calories so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It causes release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower your risk of osteoporosis, too. Since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. In addition to its nutritional advantage, breastfeeding is convenient and inexpensive, and also is a bonding experience for the mother and infant.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to be educated on the benefits that breastfeeding has for both you and your baby.