To breastfeed or use formula is one of the first decisions you'll make as a parent (but it definitely won't be your last). No matter which choice you decide to make, it's always worth exploring your options, and the purpose of today's post is to help you explore all the amazing benefits of breastfeeding specifically. It not only has the ability to help your little one adjust but can do the same for you, too, post-pregnancy. After months of waiting for a baby's arrival, it can be nice to have some help acclimating to "regular" life together.
Of course, to be clear, there are situations in which breastfeeding is not suggested for new mothers—sometimes, for example, when a baby is premature or when the parent is required to take medication. It's also a deeply personal choice that isn't for everyone.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding gives newborns the ideal amount of proteins, vitamins, and antibodies that allow them to grow. In fact, research has found that if 90% of babies could be solely breastfed for the first six months, the U.S. would save about $13 billion in medical costs every year. And when it comes to all of the health advantages, we haven't even touched the surface. Keep reading to see the eight top benefits of breastfeeding that every parent should know about.
Some may even surprise you.
It prevents illness
Breastfeeding doesn't just benefit a child's health while they are nursing—the effects carry on throughout their lives. A 2010 study found that breastfeeding prevents childhood health issues like ear infections, stomach viruses, diabetes, and leukemia. Furthermore, when parents nurse, their children's genes are affected by the milk. It gives babies less of a chance of getting leaky gut, a condition in which outside particles enter your bloodstream through your intestinal wall (allergies, colitis, and Crohn's disease can all be a result).
It decreases the chances of SIDS
Every parent worries about SIDS—sudden infant death syndrome—in which young babies can unexpectedly pass away, most often in their sleep. This condition affects roughly 3500 infants in the U.S. alone each year. Research shows that when children are breastfed, their chance of SIDS decreases by nearly 50%.
The baby weight comes off faster
Have you ever noticed that parents who carry and then breastfeed drop their baby weight much faster than those who don't? That's because when you're nursing, you're actually burning calories. "Breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce," says ob-gyn Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, a professor of pediatrics and the author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. "If you feed your baby 20 ounces a day, that's 400 calories you've swept out of your body."
You'll learn to read baby's cues
Parents learn to read their little ones' cues in many ways, and one of them can be through breastfeeding. When you breastfeed, you have to rely on signs that your baby is getting enough food. (You don't have the option to read the ounces they've consumed out of a bottle.) This will foster interaction between parent and baby, providing a bond that you'll have way past infancy.
When you're not pumping, breastfeeding can prove easier than other methods of feeding a new baby. Breast milk is ready to go from the source, without the need to mix or heat anything. Traveling and baby is hungry? No big deal. And with the creation of more practical maternity-wear, breastfeeding anytime, anywhere is becoming that much easier for moms on the go. Plus, as an added perk, you don't have to tote bottles and warmers around with you.
It decreases your child's chances of obesity
And the fact of the matter is you don’t even have to breastfeed for six months to reap these benefits. Research has shown that nursing for any period of time lowers your child’s chances of adolescent or adult obesity by 15% to 30%.
It fights postpartum depression
Postpartum depression affects a whopping one in seven new moms. The serious condition can leave new mothers mentally crippled and unable to care for their child. Research has shown, however, that carrying parents who breastfeed have a lower chance of getting PPD. It's also worth noting that PPD is known to decrease the rate of breastfeeding, further highlighting a relationship between the two. "Breastfeeding can help to relax mothers and reduce stress, so it might play a part in preventing mental health issues developing," says Rosemary Dodds, a senior policy adviser at parenting charity NCT.
It may make baby smarter
Although no official conclusions have been made, some believe that children who were breastfed have higher IQ scores when they grow up. The thought process is that there are fatty acids only found in breastmilk that increase a child's brain function. Others think that the touch between parent and child stimulates the brain.
As you can see, there's no doubt that the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. It's definitely worth taking into consideration when it comes to how you will feed your baby. And of course, if you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor.