Mention breastfeeding, and you’ll find most mothers have a strong opinion about it, one way or the other. It’s an emotional topic. But it’s also a scientific one.
[I do realize that there are those who cannot breastfeed for various reasons. This is not aimed at you in any way. If on the other hand, you are not sure if breastfeeding is for you, please read to the end. Also be aware of the medical interventions (listed below) that can cause challenges to breastfeeding.]
The CDC and the Susan G. Komen Foundation both state that breastfeeding reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as lowers risk of estrogen receptor-negative (including triple negative) breast cancers. And breastfeeding is also tied to a lower risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, but a CDC study shows only 1 in 4 women know this information.
So today, I ask you to consider the blessings and the health benefits of breastfeeding.
By choosing to breast feed, you and your baby gain all these benefits:
1. A healthier baby –
Lower risk for asthma for your child? Yup. A bump in IQ? It’s true. Reduced ear infections? Yes, check it: Breastfed babies have half the number of ear infections of formula-fed babies. “The incidences of pneumonia and colds are reduced among breastfed babies. GI infections like diarrhea are also less common. And long-term you reduce your babies risk of developing chronic conditions, such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease,” says infant-nutrition expert Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.
2. Lower SIDS risk –
Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about 50%.
3. Help with stuttering –
A University of Illinois study revealed a real relationship between breastfeeding duration and natural recovery for boys suffering from stuttering. The better fatty acid profile of human milk builds healthier brain tissue and may explain this association. This makes perfect sense when we now know boys tend to suffer from ‘Brain Starvation’.
4. Share your antibodies with your baby –
Your antibodies develop a strong immune system and protect your little one from multiple illnesses.
5. Heal faster post-delivery –
The oxytocin released when your baby nurses helps your uterus contract, reducing blood loss post-delivery. Plus, breastfeeding will help your uterus return to its normal size more quickly—at about six weeks postpartum, compared with 10 weeks if you don’t breastfeed.
6. Builds even stronger bones for you –
Also, according to Lawrence, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. “When a woman is pregnant and lactating, her body absorbs calcium much more efficiently,” she explains. “So while some bones, particularly those in the spine and hips, may be a bit less dense at weaning, six months later, they are more dense than before pregnancy.”
8. Incinerate calories – Have fewer problems with weight
It’s more likely that neither of you will become obese if you breastfeed. You may have heard that nursing burns up to 500 calories a day. And that’s almost right. “Breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce,” Dr. Ruth Lawrence explains. “If you feed your baby 20 ounces a day, that’s 400 calories you’ve swept out of your body.”
9. An unmatched feeling of femininity –
“It’s empowering as a new mother to see your baby grow and thrive on your breast milk alone,” Dr. Lawrence says.
10. A custom-made supply –
Formula isn’t able to change its make-up, but your breast milk morphs to meet your baby’s changing needs. Colostrum—the “premilk” that comes in after you deliver—is chock-full of antibodies to protect your newborn baby. “It’s also higher in protein and lower in sugar than ‘full’ milk, so even a small amount can hold off your baby’s hunger,” says Heather Kelly, an international board-certified lactation consultant in NYC. When your full milk comes in (usually three to four days after delivery), it is higher in both sugar and volume than colostrum—again, just what your baby requires. “He needs a lot of calories and frequent feedings to fuel his rapid growth,” Kelly explains. “Your mature milk is designed to be digested quickly so he’ll eat often.”
Blow your mind: Amazing! Breast Milk Changes Based On Signals From Baby
11. A menstruation vacation –
Breastfeeding your baby around the clock—no bottles or formula— will delay ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. “Breastfeeding causes the release of prolactin, which keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered,” Kelly explains. “When your prolactin levels drop, those two hormones can kick back in, which means ovulation—and, hence, menstruation—occurs.” Even if you do breastfeed exclusively, your prolactin levels will eventually drop over the course of several months. Many moms who solely nurse will see their periods return between six and eight months after delivery, Kelly adds; others don’t for a full year.
12. It’s cheap!
According to La Leche League International, the cost of formula can range anywhere from $134 to $491 per month. That’s $1,608 to $5,892 in one year! (With the current inflation, it can be far higher now).
13. A great way to learn about your baby –
“You have to read your baby’s ‘satiety cues’ a little better, because unlike with a bottle, you can’t see how much he’s eaten,” Kelly says. “You have to rely on your own instincts and your baby’s behavior to know when your baby is full.”
14. Breastfeed anytime and anywhere –
Feed on the go without worrying about having to mix formula or prepare bottles. When traveling, breastfeeding can also provide a source of comfort for babies whose normal routine is disrupted.
15. Friendships –
“Breastfeeding helps cultivate relationships with other moms,” Kelly says. Whether it’s talking about parenting styles, nighttime feedings or engorgement, nursing allows women to forge positive postpartum relationships. Adds Heather Kelly, “It can be a blessed season of your life, sitting together, nursing and taking care of your baby.”
Birth Interventions Are Known To Affect Breastfeeding
What many women don’t realize when planning for their birth is that common medical childbirth interventions that seem benign — maybe even helpful — can have effects that lead to a more difficult start to breastfeeding. Of course, it doesn’t mean that it will be true for all women —it simply increases chances of having problems. It’s better to be informed so you can prepare and plan for support, should you need extra help.
These unnatural medical interventions include:
- induced birth (Pitocin)
- continuous fetal monitoring
- IV fluids
- narcotic pain meds
- vigorous suctioning after birth
- mother/baby separation
These babies tend to have more problems learning to latch and breastfeed effectively.
START WITH PREVENTION
The best way to do this is:
- Attend private (non-hospital based) childbirth preparation classes to learn as much as you can about labor and childbirth.
Best Online Birthing Classes of 2022
- Best Overall: Lamaze International (Find a Class)
- Best Budget: Birth It Up
- Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth
- Best for Parents Wanting No Pain Medications: Kopa Birth
- Best for Home or Birthing Center Birth: Mama Natural Birth Course
- Best for Couples: The Online Prenatal Class for Couples
- Best Free: Pampers Childbirth Education Class
- Best Hypnobirthing Class: The Positive Birth Company
- Find out if your birth place is “Baby Friendly” here (locations).
- Consider hiring a doula to support you throughout the childbirth experience.
- Just as you might write a birth plan, have a breastfeeding plan in place with your desires for the early hours and days with your baby.
- Spend time skin to skin immediately after birth, at least until the first feeding.
- Keep your baby close to you, and feed often.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10
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