Benefits of Breastfeeding
In (delayed) celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, which ran from the 1st-7th August, I thought I would post something on the amazing food and “medicine” that is breastmilk. Liquid gold, created by nature and perfect for your growing baby, it provides immune boosting antibodies and enzymes that are not present in formula.There are many benefits for both mom and baby, making it an all-round win. Read on to learn more!
Benefits of breastfeeding for babies
- Because the proteins in breast milk are easily digested, your baby will have fewer occurrences of stomach upset, diarrhea and constipation compared to formula fed babies.
- Breast milk is a contributing factor towards reducing the risk of viruses, allergies, ear infections and respiratory infections.
- As you breastfeed you pass immune factors and white blood cells to your baby which protect against diseases such as spinal meningitis, diabetes and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Skin to skin contact and the associated increase in the hormone, oxytocin, helps create a unique and reassuring bond between mother and child.
*Breastfed babies can and do get sick, however the illness is generally less severe than in a baby who is fed artificial milk.
Benefits of breastfeeding for Mom
- Studies show that breastfeeding reduces the risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
- Milk production burns roughly 300 to 500 calories per day, so nursing mothers lose their pregnancy weight slowly, in a healthy way and without fad diets.
- While you are nursing you might feel cramps. This is your uterus shrinking to its original size, and is triggered by breastfeeding. A breastfeeding mother’s uterus will return to its normal size after 6 weeks while a non-nursing mother can usually only expect this result at roughly 10 weeks.
- Exclusive breastfeeding will delay ovulation which will delay menstruation. Despite exclusively nursing your baby, most women find their periods returning 6 to 8 months after birth (this does vary).
Extended benefits of breastfeeding
The benefits of breastfeeding extend well into the first few years of your baby’s life but even if you are only able to breastfeed for a short time, it’s worth it and better than no breastmilk whatsoever.
Breastfeeding for the first 3 months gives your baby’s digestive system time to mature before introducing formula. Newborn infants need frequent feedings to encourage growth and breastmilk is easily digested. The proteins in formula are harder to break down in comparison.
Breastfeeding while starting solids also decreases the risk of your baby developing allergies. As an added convenience you can mix breastmilk into your baby’s cereal and food, giving baby a familiar taste.
How important is breastfeeding for premature babies?
Premature babies have a special need for breast milk. The valuable nutrients and immune-building properties of breastmilk can make a huge difference to the health and development of your premature baby.
The beauty of breast milk is that the milk of a preterm baby is higher in protein than the milk of a full-term baby. Breast milk is the preferred option for premature babies as it contains lipase, which is an enzyme that allows babies to digest fat more efficiently. It also protects against necrotizing enterocolitis – a disease that is often fatal for premature babies.
Please note: In the event that a mother is unable to provide her premature infant with breast milk, donor milk must be pasteurized to kill the infection fighting live cells. There are registered milk banks for this purpose.
Breastmilk vs Formula
Both provide energy, hydration and nutrients but breast milk definitely comes out on top.
|Antibodies to protect against illnesses||Lactose (a natural sugar found in milk) and/or other sugars such as corn syrup, fructose or maltodextrin|
|Hormones that promote bonding and regulate appetite||Plant-based oils, such as palm, rapeseed, coconut, sunflower and soybean oil|
|Stem cells that may support organ development and repair||Fatty acids, usually derived from fish oil|
|White blood cells that fight infection||Vitamins and minerals from plant and animal sources|
|Beneficial bacteria that protect your baby’s digestive system||A couple of enzymes and amino acids|
|Prebiotics called oligosaccharides that support a healthy gut (more than 200!)||Probiotics|
|Long-chain fatty acids to help develop your baby’s brain, nervous system and eyes|
|Enzymes to support his digestive and immune systems|
|Nucleotides and hormones that help develop healthy sleep-wake patterns|
|*Different types of baby formula, such as goat’s milk, hypoallergenic and soya formulas, may have a different mix of ingredients.|
Fed is best
While we at My Birth Boutique fully support and encourage breastfeeding, we also support the ‘Fed is Best’ movement. While breastfeeding is natural, it can be challenging, and there may also be medical reasons why a mom is unable to breastfeed. Each mother should do what she believes is best for her and her baby.
Find your mom tribe
Don’t have any friends who currently have babies or who breastfeed? There are online support groups (such as La Leche League), clinics and in-person meetings where you can find like-minded moms and lactation consultants who are dedicated to breastfeeding. You can also get in touch with local doulas and midwives who can point you in the right direction. Share your journey, from the highs to the lows, with others in the same boat as you and reach out when you hit a stumbling block. It can make all the difference!