Breast milk is always best for tiny humans. Women’s bodies are made to manufacture it exclusively for their children. It contains the perfect mix of vitamins, minerals, fats and water to grow babies healthy and strong. And the great thing about breastfeeding is that it is beneficial to both baby and mom. There are tons of health benefits that accompany breastfeeding. Some of them you already know, and others may completely surprise you.
Supports emotional health and bonding
As baby starts their life, mom’s life is changing once again. It can be difficult transitioning into motherhood, especially in the early post-partum stage. With so many hormones ebbing and flowing, the emotional and mental well being of mom should not be ignored. One way to support mom’s emotional health and encourage bonding with the baby is to breastfeed. The act of holding the baby and breastfeeding releases endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which results in a more cheerful and peaceful disposition for both mom and baby. In fact, many mothers who enjoy breastfeeding choose to memorialize this act of love and motherhood with breast milk jewelry. That’s right. It is possible to encapsulate mother’s milk in a piece of jewelry that can be treasured, gifted or passed down.
Shrinks the uterus
When a woman breastfeeds, her uterus begins to contract back down to its pre-pregnancy size, as well as more quickly close off the blood vessels that were attached to the placenta. Although these initial contractions of the uterus can be very uncomfortable for many women, breastfeeding baby helps to return the body to its baseline. In addition to helping the uterus return to its normal size, breastfeeding also burns between 500 and 700 calories a day. Any mother who is trying to get closer to her pre-pregnancy weight will definitely appreciate this little fact.
Reduces cancer risk
Many people are surprised to learn that breastfeeding can reduce the risk for reproductive cancers and breast cancer. In fact, just six months of breastfeeding can reduce the risk for breast cancer by 10%. Even women who were breastfed as a baby have a 25% lower risk than their formula fed counterparts. The risk for uterine and ovarian cancer is also greatly reduced by breastfeeding.
Natural birth control
Although breastfeeding is not a fail-safe method of birth control, it has been shown to put ovulation and menstruation on hold for several months. Mother’s milk is nature’s way of putting more time in between births so that mom’s body has a chance to replenish its energy, mineral and vitamin reserves. A pregnancy takes a lot out of mom, so this biological down time often makes the difference in the overall health as well as the long term health of mothers.
Breast milk is truly a phenomenon of nature. A little breast milk can combat diaper rash, ear infections, minor skin irritations and more. It does a lot to prevent viruses and bacteria from harming infants. With a low functioning immune system, baby gets a big boost from breastfeeding.
Lowers risk of developing food allergies
Food allergies of any kind are a real nuisance, so giving a baby their best chance at avoiding allergies seems like a no brainer. If mom or dad has any food allergies, baby may also develop an intolerance or allergy, however breastfeeding can lower the risk. Common allergies include peanuts, shellfish and dairy, but breastmilk’s ability to coat the digestive tract can keep certain foods from leaking into the bloodstream and benign treated like a foreign body, resulting in an allergic reaction.
Builds immune system
A mother’s immunities can be transferred to her infant through breastfeeding. In a baby’s first 4 weeks of life, their immune system is not very hardy, which is why breastfeeding is strongly encouraged. Much of the human immune system is found in the digestive tract, so when baby breastfeeds, they are building their immune system. Between the immunoglobulin A found in colostrum and the nutrients in mom’s milk, baby gets a strong boost to their immune system. Mother’s milk acts as a shield of protection.
Reduces likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension
Breastfeeding mothers lower their risk of developing diabetes due to it helping the body to better process blood glucose. And the longer mom breastfeeds baby, the lower her risk becomes. Additionally, breastfed babies have a lower incidence of obesity and therefore a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Likewise, mothers who breastfeed for longer than six months have a lower risk of developing hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease later in life.
Reduces digestion issues
Because breast milk is tailor made to suit baby’s needs, it does a lot to reduce and even relieve digestive problems like diarrhea and acid reflux for baby. Bottle feeding isn’t all that sterile and can introduce various bacteria that can upset the balance of an infant’s digestive system. Although, breastfed babies can still encounter digestive problems, the likelihood is greatly reduced since their system was developed to process breast milk.
Decreases likelihood of SIDS
Babies who are breastfed are 60% less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). There is also some correlation between the length of time baby is breastfed and whether or not baby is exclusively breastfed. Most SIDS deaths occur between two and four months of age, and it has been hypothesised that babies who are breastfed tend to wake more easily than those who are formula fed.
There are many ways for parents to support the growth and development of their children, and breastfeeding happens to be one of the best ways to support newborns and children under the age of two. If your family would like to breastfeed and you’re having a difficult time, it’s a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant or your child’s pediatrician. They may be able to give you some suggestions or tips to make breastfeeding go a lot smoother for mom and baby. Getting support is crucial to having an enjoyable breastfeeding experience.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.