To quote one strong voice that’s all for breastfeeding and mother’s milk, here’s what Darcia Narvaez, PhD has to say:
“Mother’s milk, developed through evolution with thousands of ingredients to build the human brain, body and immune system, is incomparable with a man-made product of a couple dozen ingredients that are non-human and in wrong proportions.”
And, she’s not the only one who believes that formula isn’t what’s best for your child. Health organizations and moms’ groups promote mother’s milk constantly. But why all the fuss? What exactly is so amazing about breast milk? Keep reading to find out, momma!
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms
- How long should moms breastfeed their babies?
- What can prevent a mother from breastfeeding her baby?
- How do I know if my baby has latched on properly for breastfeeding?
- Are there laws that allow or prohibit moms from breastfeeding in public?
- Can I continue breastfeeding even when I have to go back to work?
- How do I know if my baby is hungry, aside from hearing them cry?
- What are the best positions for breastfeeding?
- What are the most common problems moms experience when they breastfeed?
- Who can help me with my breastfeeding issues?
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
The first thing that most advocates and health professionals point out about a mother’s milk is its benefits for babies. Here are some of these benefits:
1. Has all the nutrition your baby needs
This is the primary reason why your breasts produce milk: to feed and nurture your baby. Your body is so amazing that it creates the kind of sustenance your child needs, with all the nutrients they require for good health!
Breast milk contains loadfuls of goodness, including vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, to name a few. Your very first breast milk, colostrum, is also rich in nutrients, so it’s very important that your baby takes it.
2. Protects baby from bacteria and viruses
Did you know that breast milk also contains antibodies? These antibodies serve as your baby’s first line of defense against illnesses. Also, when you breastfeed your baby, whatever antibodies you already have as a mother will pass through your milk and will be ingested by your little one.
In a study about maternal antibodies, researchers confirmed that the antibodies in breast milk are able to protect infants against enterovirus infections, and it’s particularly true for babies who’ve been exclusively breastfed for longer than two weeks.
Another interesting trivia is that your breast milk actually changes (in a good way) when you kiss your baby. It works like this: kissing your baby transfers some of the pathogens on their skin to your lymphatic system. This will then trigger your body to produce antibodies, which you’ll eventually pass on to your baby through your breast milk.
3. Lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS is one of the most mysterious killers of newborn babies. According to CDC statistics, approximately 1,250 babies died of SIDS in 2019. And while the cause of this syndrome hasn’t been determined yet, there are some theories on why it occurs and how it can be prevented.
Breastfeeding is included in this list of possible ways to prevent SIDS. The logic is simple: you keep your baby close to you when you breastfeed, so you’re better able to monitor your baby. Not only that, but your breast milk also helps promote safer sleep by organizing your baby’s sleep and wake cycles.
4. Makes your little ones smarter
There’s evidence that breast milk can improve your child’s cognitive development and increase their IQ. And while you won’t really see this benefit early on, it goes to show that breast milk doesn’t just fill up your baby at the time of feeding—it also prepares them for the future!
Some moms may argue that breast milk isn’t necessary for their developing child. But as the saying goes, cow’s milk may grow bodies but only breast milk can grow brains!
5. Promotes healthier baby weight
One indicator of a healthy baby is when they have normal weight gain as they grow. Thankfully, breastfeeding helps prevent childhood obesity. It contains more leptin than formula, which helps regulate fat storage and appetite.
Another interesting thing about breastfeeding is that it actually teaches your baby to self-regulate their intake. They stay on the boob for as long as they need and stop when they’re full, which assists in the development of healthy eating habits.
6. Strengthens your baby’s gut
Exclusively breastfed babies have a healthy intestinal microbiome—thanks to the oligosaccharides (a type of carbohydrates) in breast milk that help nurture beneficial gut bacteria. This microbiome then aids your baby’s digestion and protects your baby against disease-causing pathogens, including Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter.
7. Helps prevent stomach and digestive problems
With healthier digestion comes protection against common stomach issues, including constipation and diarrhea. Plus, breastfed babies are less likely to experience gas as compared with formula-fed babies.
8. Protects baby from a wide variety of serious ailments
Breastfeeding is sooo amazing. Aside from all the health issues I’ve mentioned so far, there are plenty of other diseases against which your baby will have extra protection with the help of breast milk.
Among other things, breastfeeding can help your child steer clear or lower their risk of the following:
- Type I and II diabetes
- Colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ear infections
- Respiratory tract infections
- Necrotizing enterocolitis
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms
Alongside the breastfeeding benefits that a baby can get, mommas also have a lot to be happy about. You can enjoy a lot of perks from letting your baby take your liquid gold. Below are some of ‘em!
9. May help mommas lose weight
Losing weight after giving birth can be a huge challenge, but breastfeeding can help.
Believe it or not, there are studies that support this weight loss claim. In a research published in Preventive Medicine journal, results showed that moms who breastfed exclusively for three months lost up to 3.2 pounds of weight, and those who breastfed exclusively for a year lost more weight than those who didn’t breastfeed at all or chose non-exclusive breastfeeding.
Now, you need to remember that not every mom’s physiology is the same, so some moms may lose weight faster than others. But, I’m sure that we can agree that the idea of losing weight effortlessly (and by effortlessly, I mean without any exercise) is something to be very happy about.
10. Breastfeeding can help you avoid depression
Lots of mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) after giving birth. While it’s not clear who is more prone to this phenomenon, it has been noted that breastfeeding significantly reduces the chances of developing this issue. It has also been observed that moms who wean babies from the boob early are prone to PPD.
You should be aware, however, that some moms develop PPD earlier than is the norm. These moms may find it difficult to breastfeed their babies because of such a problem. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s best if you talk with your doctor immediately.
11. It can help shrink your uterus faster
Getting your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy state can take a while. The process, which is called involution, is helped along by a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone is produced in high numbers during labor and also when you breastfeed.
Aside from helping speed up involution, breastfeeding also helps reduce bleeding after you give birth. So you won’t have to suffer the discomfort of postpartum bleeding for too long.
RELATED: Postpartum Period & How Life Will Be Like After Pregnancy
12. Can be used as a form of contraception
Another great benefit that you can get from breastfeeding is it can actually prevent you from getting pregnant while you’re doing it. Of course, there are a few caveats to this. For starters, you have to be exclusively breastfeeding and not menstruating or getting periods for any contraceptive benefits (called lactational amenorrhea or LAM) to occur.
You should also keep in mind that you have to breastfeed your baby every 2-4 hours in the daytime and at least every 6 hours at night. Breastfeeding is one way to stop your body from ovulating, which means that you become less likely (take note of the term “less likely”) to menstruate and conceive.
13. It can save you a lot of money
One of the benefits that I love about breastfeeding (and also one of the main reasons why I did it in the first place) is it saves you a LOT of money. Formula is very expensive (not to mention not all of them would be suitable for your baby) and can be such a hassle to prepare. When you travel and feed your baby formula, you have to lug with you bottles, sterilizers, warmers… ugh!
When you breastfeed, you don’t have to spend money on all the other trappings required for formula feeding. When your baby’s appetite increases, you don’t have to worry about the cost of the bigger cans of formula that comes with it. And when your baby’s hungry, you don’t have to bother with mixing up their food since you simply have to put them on the boob and you’re good to go.
14. It can help prevent serious ailments
Breastfeeding can also help moms avoid some serious diseases. These include lowered risk of contracting certain cancers, such as ovarian, cervical, and breast cancer, getting high blood pressure, and type II diabetes. It can also lower your chances of developing heart disease and suffering from arthritis later in life.
Additionally, it’s also been noted that breastfeeding can help lower your chances of getting osteoporosis in your later years.
15. It provides perfect bonding moments for you and your baby
I can say that this is my favorite of all the benefits of breastfeeding (yes, it actually trumps the money-saving aspect). It’s one of the things that make you feel like you’re connected to your child. Feeding your baby from only the breast gives you the feeling that you’re providing them with exactly what they need.
Holding your baby while you breastfeed brings you joy like no other and remembering that feeling always brings a smile to my face.
As with most things in life, breastfeeding is not that easy for some as it is for others. It can come with difficulties that you didn’t think would come with the simple and natural act of feeding from your breasts. With that said, here are some concerns and questions mommas have when it comes to breastfeeding.
How long should moms breastfeed their babies?
The best scenario for this is 2 years, with your child receiving complementary food as they grow older. You should be aware that the longer your little one stays on the boob, the better protected they are from diseases and some ailments. If you cannot see yourself breastfeeding your baby up to 2 years, at least 6 months and up to 1 year is advisable.
What can prevent a mother from breastfeeding her baby?
There are instances when a momma cannot breastfeed her baby, and these include situations where the baby has to be confined to the NICU or is born premature. Problems with inverted nipples and latching problems can also prevent a mom from breastfeeding.
There are also circumstances when, even though a mom can breastfeed her child, she is advised by her doctor not to. This can include disorders that make breast milk harmful to the baby and when the momma is sick or is taking medications.
How do I know if my baby has latched on properly for breastfeeding?
The first thing you need to do to ensure that your baby latches properly is to first learn how to position your baby for it. Center your nipple in your baby’s mouth right above their tongue, while cradling their head and guiding your breast as you do this. You will know they’ve latched properly when their lips cover your entire nipple and a good part of your areola.
Also, you shouldn’t feel any pain or hear clicking sounds as your baby feeds. Otherwise, your baby might not be latching properly.
Are there laws that allow or prohibit moms from breastfeeding in public?
Breastfeeding in public is an issue that some moms have to contend with in one way or another. Some people find the act offensive, stressing that it should only be done in the privacy of one’s home. Others tend to make moms uncomfortable when they stare at them while they breastfeed in public.
To find out what your rights are and what laws protect your breastfeeding rights (these also include workplace rights for expressing milk and travel laws), you should read this article on breastfeeding in public.
Can I continue breastfeeding even when I have to go back to work?
This is where breast pumps come in handy. Pumping breastmilk and storing them after, so you can continue to exclusively feed your baby breastmilk, is highly encouraged. You can do this at home, before going to work, and at certain times in the office so you can have another batch to add to your stock for your baby.
It’s also advisable that you continue pumping your breast milk at work at about the same time and intervals as when you breastfed. This is to help your breasts continue to produce milk even though your baby isn’t directly feeding from them.
How do I know if my baby is hungry, aside from hearing them cry?
The indicators that your baby is hungry include being restless, sucking their hand, and moving their head around (rooting) to find your breast.
When your baby is crying, this means they’re already feeling hunger pangs and they may need to be calmed down before you can feed them.
What are the best positions for breastfeeding?
There are actually a lot of positions to choose from when you breastfeed. These include the more common ones, like the cradle, cross-cradle, and side-lying positions.
What are the most common problems moms experience when they breastfeed?
Aside from latching, moms can also experience problems like sore nipples, blocked ducts, mastitis, engorgement, and even inconvenience or fatigue associated with breastfeeding. Problems like lack of milk supply is also one of the most common complaints mommas have. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to address this, like consuming lactation-boosting galactagogues).
Who can help me with my breastfeeding issues?
Moms who find themselves struggling with their breastfeeding journey can always contact a certified lactation consultant. These are specialists who can teach and guide mommas with their individual breastfeeding challenges and journeys. You can find a lactation specialist near you or you can ask fellow momma friends if they can refer a good one to you.