Today I bring to you the benefits of breastfeeding you might not have even heard of.
I am a strong advocate of breastfeeding. In the initial months as a new mom, it gave me a kick to read every single day about the various benefits of breast milk and to know that I am doing the best for my baby.
It was my way of dealing with criticism from uninformed people who insisted that I start formula, cow’s milk or even solids very early. Reading the benefits of breastfeeding helped reinforce my belief that I am indeed doing the best for my baby and others are actually wrong.
We all know that breast milk is best for the baby and should preferably be the sole source of baby nutrition for the first six months of life.
While many of us know the reason for this, the truth is that there are a hundred benefits of breastfeeding or breast milk that you may not even be aware. So read on, and be glad to be a breastfeeding mom.
You can also read about why cheese and butter, but no cow’s milk for baby until one year.
Interesting facts about breast milk:
- Breast milk has natural infection fighting properties. Pumped breast milk stays good at room temperature longer than prepared formula milk. Read to know about expressing, storing and feeding breast milk
- In the absence of breast milk, donated breast milk from a breast milk bank can be given. Wet nursing is an age-old practice where, if mother dies or is not able to produce milk after childbirth, another woman will nurse the baby
- Breast milk is used as home remedy to treat eye infections, diaper rashes and ear infections
- Pasteurized breast milk is given to some adults to increase their immunity in some cases – such as people who are receiving chemotherapy for cancer
Commonly known benefits of breastfeeding:
- Ideal nutrition:
Breast milk is easy to digest and has the exact nutrients that your baby needs to thrive in the right proportions.
Breastfeeding creates a bond between the mother and the baby like nothing else. Cuddling with mom and nursing from her bosom is the most comfortable thing on earth for a baby.
You can also refer to the unpleasant experiences about breastfeeding no mom would ever love to tell.
Breast milk contains antibodies that help boost the immunity of the baby.
A new baby takes some time in the world to develop her own immunity. Until then the antibodies in mother’s milk are extremely valuable in preventing her from getting sick often.
Certain characteristics of breast milk you might not know about:
#1. Breast milk is live
Breast milk has many living components, completely lacking in formula milk. It is rich in white blood cells, which eat up germs.
It is rich in immunoglobulin, the antibodies that provide immunity. It also contains digestive enzymes that promote intestinal health.
Breast milk is full of healthy bacteria, like the live cultures in yogurt. It results in healthy gut flora in baby intestines, which plays a huge role in baby’s immunity.
It contains hormones that contribute to the well-being of the baby.
#2. Breastmilk is adaptive
- Taste changes: Breast milk takes the taste of whatever foods the mother has eaten throughout the day. It introduces the baby to the foods that mother is eating.
By eating healthy foods, mother can influence the future palate of the baby.
- Antibodies for the surrounding germs: The antibodies in breast milk will vary depending on the illness / germs the mother is fighting.
Since the mother and baby are in the same environment, and constantly in touch with each other, it will provide specific immunity against the germs surrounding the baby.
- Water and fat content changes: Breast milk is watery in the beginning of the feed and gets gradually thicker as the baby nurses. In other words, the milk changes from foremilk to hind-milk.
Foremilk will quench the thirst of the baby, and hind milk, with its higher fat content, provides more calories. It is more filling and hence induces sleep for the baby.
In hotter climates, babies will nurse more often for shorter periods of time. This will provide them with more foremilk, thus quenching their thirst.
- Changes with age: The composition of breast milk changes with the age of the baby. Formula companies try to mimic this and make different formula for different ages.
You can also refer to the advantages and disadvantages of formula feeding.
Now let’s move on to learn a lot more amazing benefits of breast milk.
Benefits of colostrum:
Colostrum is the early milk that your body produces for the first few days after your baby is born.
- Not only it is the perfect nutrition for your newborn, it is much higher in immunity giving antibodies than mature milk
- Has laxative properties that helps pass the baby’s first dark stools called the meconium
A newborn’s tummy is as small as the size of a marble and the very small amount of colostrum produced is just enough to nourish your baby.
The act of breastfeeding and its benefits:
The very act of breastfeeding has so many benefits for the mother and the baby, rather than the milk itself.
- Ensures rest for a new mother
In order to breastfeed, the mother has to lie down or sit in a place and relax for a few minutes. This essential rest for a new mom is automatically ensured by breastfeeding.
Now, think of having to sterilize and prepare bottles of formula? Breastfeeding is so much easier, right?
- Better jaw alignment and better teeth
The act of breastfeeding helps in the proper development of baby’s jaw and facial structure. That also means better teeth for the baby.
- Baby learns to regulate his appetite
A baby breastfed on demand learns to regulate his appetite from day 1. He drinks when he is hungry and stops when he is full.
When a baby is fed with bottle, we have a tendency to make them finish the bottle or a certain quantity. This causes the baby to drink more than what he actually needs.
- Delays periods
Breastfeeding naturally delays periods and a woman’s return to fertility. Exclusive breastfeeding round the clock acts as a contraceptive; at least till the baby is six months old.
The only cost for breastfeeding is the extra calories that mother has to eat to nourish her baby.
Formula milk, on the other hand is very expensive. Bottle feeding also requires time and money to sanitize the bottles with hot water and soap.
Benefits of breastfeeding to the mother:
- Weight Loss:
Breastfeeding helps mother to lose weight post pregnancy and to return her uterus to the normal size more quickly.
- Lesser risk of cancer:
Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of breast cancer by up to one fifth. It also reduces the mother’s risk of ovarian cancer.
You can also refer to the self breast exam at home to detect breast cancer.
- Lesser risk of osteoporosis:
Women who breastfeed for longer period have lesser chance of a bone loss condition called osteoporosis in their post-menopausal years.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for baby:
- More bioavailable nutrients:
Even for the same quantity of nutrients in breast milk and formula, the nutrients in breast milk are in a more usable form for the baby than formula milk
- Less ear infections:
Breastfed babies have lesser ear infections than formula fed babies
- SIDS risk reduced:
SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a risk faced by babies below one year. Breastfed babies are at lesser risk of SIDS
- Natural laxative:
Breastfeeding acts as a natural laxative to help relieve baby’s stools. On the other hand, formula milk can cause constipation. Read to know the constipation causing foods and remedies to treat constipation.
- Vaccines are more effective:
Vaccines work even more effectively in breastfed babies than formula fed babies. Have you checked our vaccination schedule FREE printable?
- Lesser stink:
An exclusively breastfed baby’s pee and poop hardly smells bad. It’s one of the perks for us mothers who have to do diaper change or wash nappies!
- Pain killer:
Breastfeeding acts a mild pain killer. It’s awesome for babies who constantly get small injuries here and there as they are learning to crawl, walk or run.
Nursing is really the easiest way to calm down a toddler who has injured himself or is unreasonably cranky.
- Protects against cavities:
Breast milk helps protect baby’s teeth against cavities. Read to know about the dental hygiene for babies.
- Better skin
Breast fed babies are known to have healthier skin than formula feeding counterparts.
Long term benefits of breast milk:
Breast milk is not just for small babies. In fact, it is recommended that breastfeeding be continued at least up to two years of age.
Breastfeeding your baby for one year or more provides the following benefits:
- Intelligence: Research has shown that breastfed babies have more IQ than babies fed by other means.
- Allergies: Breast milk helps to protect your kid against lot of allergies
- Diabetes and obesity: Breastfeeding reduces the risk of diabetes later in life for both mother and the child. It also reduces the child’s risk of being obese.
As you can see, it’s not without reason that breast milk is called white gold. It is best to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life. After that, it is recommended to breastfeed your baby with gradual increase in solids up to two years of life or even beyond that.
I would like to conclude with a note for the bottle-feeding mommies.
Do not stress yourself if you are not able to breastfeed your baby despite your best attempts. It could be due to not producing enough milk, medical reasons or whatever.
No doubt, breast milk is very important. But a happy mom is even more important for a baby. Happy mom means a happy baby.
There are certainly lots of other ways to show your love and do the best for your baby. Focus on them, and enjoy the blessings of motherhood.
Kindly help to spread a word about the benefits of breastfeeding by sharing this article in your Facebook and Twitter. Remember sharing is caring!