Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby and Mom

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When it comes to breastfeeding, there are tough things and things that must be overcome, which you can learn more about in this blog post from The Pulse. There are also plenty of benefits for both baby and mom. Read on to learn more about them.

Benefits for baby

Nutrition: breast milk is the milk that human babies have evolved to drink. It satisfies their nutritional needs, while also filling them up. It has a combination of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to meet their nutritional needs in exactly the right way.

Health: breastfeeding supplements the baby’s developing immune system. What that means is that babies get protection through breast milk in the form of antibodies—germ-fighting proteins. These antibodies help the baby’s immune defenses by helping her immune system recognize invaders and destroy them. The antibodies are also aimed at the germs that are in the mother’s and baby’s environment. The breastfeeding parent’s immune system makes antibodies based on things that it encounters, so if the parent and baby are living together, the baby will get antibodies specific to things she will encounter in the home. In the health category, breastfeeding is also protective against SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2009, scientists showed that exclusive breastfeeding halves the risk that a baby will die of SIDS.

Comfort: it’s comforting for baby to be close to mom’s heart, smelling her familiar smell, and feeling cozy and warm. A newborn baby has spent his entire life hearing and smelling those things, so it makes sense that breastfeeding would feel like home to baby. It’s the same reason that skin-to-skin is so comforting to babies.

Benefits for mom

Bonding: breastfeeding might help you feel more connected to your baby. If you try breastfeeding, you’ll definitely be spending a lot of time together and there’s something about the idea that only you have something that your baby needs to grow that’s really special.

Health: There are several health benefits for breastfeeding moms that you may not know. For instance, a study published in 2013 in the journal BMC Public Health found an association between breastfeeding and decreased mortality due to cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks. The authors suggested that lactating at some point in life may protect women from heart disease, though it should be noted that this study found a correlation, not a cause and effect relationship. Similarly, researchers have found that there is a lower risk for a number of diseases—including hypertension, diabetes, and breast cancer—in women who have breastfed before.

Immediately post-birth: Breastfeeding immediately after birth can help decrease bleeding and encourage the uterus to contract because it stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin. The release of this hormone can also help you feel calm and bond with your baby.

Finances: if you are able to successfully breastfeed, you’ll likely save a lot of money on formula. Because breastfeeding is time intensive, you could lose time for other money-making ventures, it might not be a financial benefit for you.

Ease: once you have breastfeeding figured out (which might not be easy) and are up to going out and about, it is very easy to take the baby with you. There’s no need to worry about the safety of the water you’ll use for formula, storage and measuring of formula on the go, and remembering the diaper bag. You can just take the baby and a diaper and off you go. Whenever baby gets hungry, you just feed them, perhaps while enjoying your favorite park or brunch restaurant, which might help you get back to feeling like a person.

But keep this in mind: No conversation about the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby without acknowledging that some people can’t breastfeed. This happens for many reasons, including time, past trauma, biology, mental health, and physical health. If you’re someone who can’t or doesn’t want to breastfeed, there are lots of good options for you to feed your baby and help him or her grow up healthy and strong. You can read more about your options in this blog post from The Pulse.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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