Breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful experiences next to carrying a baby, giving birth, and raising your own child. It is a bonding, like pregnancy, that only you can have with that lovely little one looking up at you. That’s right! There are more benefits of breastfeeding than you can imagine! Read on.
One of the most important benefits for the baby in breastfeeding is the colostrum —an infant’s first meal which is secreted in the first 2 to 3 days after childbirth in small amounts —40-50ml on the first day, which is what an infant needs at this time. What a wonder! Human milk has been called complete nutrition for the infant from day 1 up to 6 months. With that, there are many breastfeeding benefits for both mother and infant. The nutritional benefits that breast milk brings are astounding. It is a live substance that possesses unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that can do its protective job against certain illnesses for both mothers and children. Breastfeeding benefits include:
- Physiological Effects – Breastfeeding helps maintain intestinal homeostasis and oral tolerance development, and breastfed babies have higher bacterial diversity than children fed with formula milk. Breast milk can also protect infants against lower respiratory tract infections, asthma, and allergies. Another breastfeeding benefit would be the low incidences of obesity during childhood and adolescence.
- Psychological and Cognitive Advantages – Studies suggest that a longer duration of breastfeeding during infancy was positively linked to cognitive performance and increased intelligence as adults.
Benefits of Breastfeeding a Toddler
What are some benefits of breastfeeding a toddler? The “gold standard” for infant feeding is breastfeeding for up to 2 years or longer because of the nutritional content and bioactivity of human milk, making it perfectly suited for human infants for healthy development.
According to the World Health Organization, studies done in developing countries show that frequent and continued breastfeeding is linked with greater linear growth of the child and reduced mortality. Also, with the physiological advantages breastfeeding brings, it could entail more money savings that may have otherwise gone to medication. Read more here the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom
Human milk is important for infants to thrive and be healthy, but breastfeeding is also beneficial to the mother as well. Here’s a long list of benefits of breastfeeding for moms:
- Reduced risk of certain ovarian cancer – a controlled study showed a reduced risk of 30% for ovarian cancer when comparing women who breastfed their babies to those who did not.
- Delayed return of fertility – During the first 3 months of nursing, a mother has a lower probability of conception compared to those who use contraceptives. But after 6 months, fertility is determined more by the frequency and duration of suckling, the time interval from delivery, and also possibly maternal age, parity (the number of times a woman has given birth), and nutrition.
- Return to prepregnancy weight – Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3 months has a slight effect on a woman’s weight loss, and the possibility to return to prepregnancy BMI.
- Decreased risk of postmenopausal hip fracture and osteoporosis.
- Economical benefits – A mom can save on formula since human milk is less expensive. She also saves on prep time at night, and also when going on trips. Read more here the 5 helpful tips for nursing moms.
- Environmental effects – With breastfeeding, there are no bottles to wash, and no formula cans to throw away. This is good for the environment.
- Release of good hormones – Prolactin and oxytocin are two hormones that directly affect breastfeeding. While an infant suckles at the breast, sensory impulses travel from the nipple to the brain, which leads to the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, to secrete prolactin, and the posterior lobe to secrete oxytocin. Prolactin is essential for the secretion of milk by the alveoli cells. It allows mom to relax and focus on her baby with its nurturing sensation while oxytocin makes the cells surrounding the alveoli contract and causes the milk flow to the ducts.
- Fulfilling emotional experience – Among the benefits of breastfeeding, this is the most significant one as a mother and nurturer. Mothers who breastfeed their first babies would very likely do the same with the children that follow. This encourages a deeper sense of bonding with the infant.
Breastfed babies, compared to formula milk-fed babies, experience a closer bond with their mothers. The unique emotional experience breastfeeding provides can only take place between a mother and her baby. This creates a powerful physical and emotional connection which explains why an infant, even a toddler, would grow very attached to her mom. The benefits of breastfeeding should motivate moms to feed their babies with breast milk, which is, after all, a part of that “grand design” demonstrated by the love of a mother.