Thrive Breastfeeding Holistic Health Newborn & Infant

Benefits of Breastfeeding

young mother breastfeeding her baby
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Written by Jessika Jacob

| Dr. Charles Bowers, OB/GYN

In terms of health benefits for you and your baby, you just can’t beat breast milk. Naturally equipped with all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs, the milk your body creates not only sustains your baby for the first part of his or her life, it has benefits for you as the mother, too. What exactly are some of the health advantages of breastfeeding your child? Why is it so beneficial? What can you expect? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at some of the key health benefits that come from nursing your newborn.

1. Protects Your Baby from Diseaes:

The first milk your body gives your baby has large amounts of colostrum in it, which is high in a substance called immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA offers a host of health benefits, among them a germ-fighting layer of protection that guards your child’s intestinal, nasal and throat-mucous membranes. “Breastfeeding’s protection against illness lasts beyond your baby’s breastfeeding stage, too,” says BabyCenter. “Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers … [as well as] a host of diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and inflammatory bowel disease.”

2. Protects You from Diseases:

Feeding your child breast milk also protects your own body from disease, believe it or not. “Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life, are able to lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council.

3. Sustains Your Baby Completely:

Breast milk is the only food a baby needs for the first several months of his or her life — until the point when he or she shows signs of being ready to transition to other foods. “It has all the nutrients, calories, and fluids your baby needs to be healthy,” says HealthyChildren.org, a site from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s naturally easy to digest, has growth factors that help your baby develop, and is sufficient on its own to feed and nourish your growing child. Even when you do begin to transition your child to food, always nurse first, before offering him or her a meal.

4. Releases Important Hormones into Your Body:

By breastfeeding your baby, you will naturally receive hormones released into your body that stimulate mothering behavior. Likewise, “the repeated suckling of the baby releases oxytocin from the mother’s pituitary gland,” says a study published at La Leche International. “This hormone not only signals the breasts to release milk to the baby … but simultaneously produces contractions in the uterus. The resulting contractions prevent postpartum hemorrhage and promote uterine involution (the return to a nonpregnant state).”

5. Reduces Your Baby’s Risk of Allergies:

Whether it’s because of antigens in breast milk or some sort of buffer created by breast milk against infectious organisms, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce a child’s risk of allergies. “The literature supports that: solely breastfeeding an infant reduces the risk of asthma,” says Tracey Alperin, B.S., Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Any amount of breastfeeding decreases the risk of recurrent wheezing [and] breastfeeding protects against cow’s milk allergy in children with a family history of allergy.”

6. Bonds the Two of You Together:

It’s something breastfeeding mothers have been saying for centuries: breastfeeding creates a powerful bond between mother and child. “The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure,” says WebMD. While this benefit may be a more subjective one, it can be one of the biggest psychological and emotional advantages to mothers who experience it. Deciding whether to breastfeed is always a personal decision, but it’s a decision that should never be made without understanding the advantages breastfeeding can offer. Looking at some of the benefits above, it’s clear that there are many reasons breast milk is the best option for mother and infant health.

 

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Jessika Jacob