Deciding whether to breastfeed your child or not is a personal matter, one only you and your spouse can make. However, there are many scientifically proven benefits that suggest breastfeeding is the way to go—even if you can only manage to do it for a few months. Before you decide either way, make sure you know all the facts. Here are 11 benefits of breastfeeding that every parent needs to know.
1. Breastfeeding protects your baby from illnesses.
Breast milk not only contains all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs to live, it also has qualities to protect your child from illnesses. Studies have shown that stomach viruses, ear infections, lower respiratory illnesses, and meningitis occur less often in babies who are fed breast milk, and instances of these illnesses are less severe when they do happen. The benefits last long beyond infancy to protect against type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease.
2. Breastfeeding can keep your baby from developing allergies.
Your body produces a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that forms a protective layer over the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat. This is what protects against illnesses, but it also helps prevent allergic reactions to food. Because your baby has this protective layer over his or her intestines as a result of ingesting breast milk, there is a lower risk of the inflammation that leads to allergic reactions and other health problems.
3. Breastfeeding may boost your baby’s intelligence.
Scientific studies have shown that babies who were breastfed until later in infancy had higher scores on IQ and vocabulary tests. These scores increased relative to how long the baby had been breastfed! The fatty acids in breast milk more than likely play the biggest role in contributing to brainpower benefits.
4. Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity.
It might seem too early to worry about obesity, but breastfeeding your baby now can prevent childhood and teenage obesity! Studies show breastfeeding helps prevent obesity because breastfed babies are better at eating until they’re satisfied, which sets the stage for healthier eating patterns when they’re older. Breast milk contains less insulin, which stimulates the creation of fat, than formula. Breastfed babies also have more leptin in their system, which is a hormone that regulates appetite and fat.
5. Breastfeeding may lower your baby’s risk of SIDS.
The link isn’t clear, but a study done in Germany in 2009 showed that breastfed babies were less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Feeding a baby exclusively breast milk at one month of age cuts the risk of SIDS in half. Since it’s a mysterious occurrence anyway, it’s good to know that there’s a natural way to prevent this happening.
6. Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression.
Nursing triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes you and promotes the nurturing feeling you need to feel towards your baby. Higher levels of oxytocin lead to lower blood pressure, which reduces your stress and likelihood of depression.
7. Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.
The longer you breastfeed, the more you’re protected against breast and ovarian cancer. It seems that nursing for at least a year has the most protective effect, especially in the case of breast cancer. Lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen your body produces, which is of benefit in preventing breast and ovarian cancer.
8. Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Mothers might experience a bone-mineral loss while they’re breastfeeding their baby, but the mineral density is replenished after lactation. It even increases, which helps reduce your risk of osteoporosis later on.
9. Breastfeeding helps you lose your baby weight faster.
Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so all that weight you gained during pregnancy can come off faster! Actually, some of the weight you gain during pregnancy is used as an energy source for lactation.
10. Breastfeeding saves money.
It’s estimated to cost about $1,200 a year to formula feed your baby, but mothers who breastfeed save about $400 a year! Even if you use a breast pump and bottles instead of feeding your baby personally each time, you’re buying fewer supplies than mothers who exclusively use formula. Giving your baby breast milk doesn’t require you to run to the store, so there’s an added bonus of ease of feeding.
11. Breastfeeding gives you time to bond with your baby.
It was stated above that breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which relaxes you and makes you feel nurturing towards your baby. Factor this in with the time you’ll take out of your day just to sit with your baby and enjoy this short but sweet time of their life.