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Benefits of Breastfeeding Mammals are meant to nurse their babies. All mammals in the wild nurse their offspring or they die. Humans are the only mammals that choose to feed their babies differently than what nature intended. Women stopped breastfeeding because of social attitudes, convenience for working mothers and mainly because of savvy marketing by formula companies. They have mothers believing that formula is “just as good” as breast milk and even say that breast milk may be contaminated with aluminum, PCB and other toxins. It doesn’t help that the hospitals give away free formulas to new mothers in hospitals when the baby is born as well.
I breastfed my first daughter back in 1980 when it was still very unpopular and I was treated poorly by people all the time. I chose to ignore them and I breastfed her for 2 years. I then breastfed my remaining 4 children for at least 3-4 years each because the more I learned about the benefits, the more I was determined to do that was best for them. I also learned that I was getting wonderful benefits as well. Here are some really good reasons to breast feed your baby for at least 2 years or longer.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Baby
- Breast fed babies have a special bond with the mother. It is time spent intimately where mother and baby will communicate with their eyes, smiles and cuddling that is less likely to happen with bottle feeding.
- Breastfed babies have fewer infections of the ears, throat, urinary tract, respiratory (lung) digestion (gut) tonsils and are usually less likely to get sick. That saves money at the doctors; money spent on medications (that may be dangerous) and saves needless suffering for the baby and mother.
- They have higher IQ because the cholesterol and other types of fat in human milk support the growth of nerve tissue. This will have a huge impact on the child for a lifetime.
- Visual acuity (sharpness of vision) is higher in babies that are breastfed.
- Less constipation and less colon problems- better colon flora for better digestion and immunity down the road. •Less food allergies.
- Breast milk provides the right nutrition for brain development.
- The first milk, Colostrum, is produced the first 3-4 days and will stimulate TH1 immune cells that are responsible for fighting acute illnesses and help to develop the immune system. Nothing else will work quite like colostrum to achieve this for the baby. It helps the production of antibodies for infection fighting. Colostrum is still present when the real milk comes in for up to 15 days.
- Breast milk is pre-digested and made specifically for the infant. With the baby’s needs, the milk will change. There is communication that takes place between mother’s nipple and the baby’s mouth and saliva that lets her body know what is needed by the baby. This is innate intelligence working for the baby!
- Decrease of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) statistically, for every 87 deaths from SIDS, 84 are bottle-fed and 3 are breastfed.
- Bacterial fighting, breast milk can kill E coli, salmonella, shigella, streptococcus, pneumococcus….and many other microorganisms. It is effective for use in eye infections.
- Less obesity, breastfed babies have less obesity compared to the formula fed babies.
- Less frustration, breast fed babies are encouraged to be fed on demand and not put on a schedule that is more convenient for mother as with formula. Due to this fact, they are not as frustrated between feedings and they do not have to wait for a bottle to be prepared. Babies who get frustrated with feeding make unhealthy associations to food and when they finally get it, they often eat too fast and over eat as well. Frustration should not be associated with eating.
- Breastfeeding is comforting to babies who may be sick or suffering with cold or teething pain.
- Babies who were breastfed need less orthodontic dental work and have less cavities.
- Healthier babies, hospitalization is 10 times less than that of formula fed babies the first year of life.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother
- Formula costs approximately $500 to $1400 the first year depending on the type of formula and when you introduce foods to your baby. Breastfeeding costs $00.00.
- Breastfeeding will help Mother’s uterus contract back into position.
- Helps to delay ovulation which will help with spacing of other births.
- Reduces the risk for breast cancers, cervical and ovarian cancers.
- Promotes weight loss and helps mothers body get back in pre-pregnancy shape.
- Keeps mother and baby closer and more dependent which is how nature designed it!
- Breastfeeding relaxes mother by producing hormones that have an endorphin effect.
- Breastfeeding gives mother a reason to sit and relax with her child throughout the day.
- Food for baby is ready all the time, no mixing or heating bottles.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages babies to be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond that, the AAP encourages breastfeeding until at least 12 months and longer if both the mother and baby are willing. If mother is working, she can pump breast milk for the baby so that the baby will still get the benefits of her milk while away from mother. She must be careful to let the baby nurse skin to skin as often as possible to insure that the milk does not dry up. If a mother starts to use a breast pump too soon, her milk may not come in sufficiently. A breast pump should not be used the first 4-6 weeks or the milk production may decrease. The pump does not duplicate the same reaction as the baby’s suckling and it should be used in addition to the normal nursing, not in place of it.
The minerals, vitamins, fat, antibodies and other immune modulating ingredients cannot be duplicated by a commercial formula. Breastfeeding the first time may be challenging; both mother and baby must learn how to do this and for some, this may take a week to figure out! Never give up trying.
Contact your local LeLeche League or a lactation specialist for problems that come up. Purchase the book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to help you get prepared before the baby comes! They have support materials, clothing that will make nursing easy and support groups across the globe. Breastfeeding may be the #1 best gift you will give your baby and will be a blessing to you too!