Breastfeeding is a magical journey. By feeding baby from the breast, you are providing your baby with the absolute best in nutrition that you have to offer. Although it’s not always easy, it’s always worth it. Breast feeding your baby is one of the best ways to bond with your new baby, and spend quality skin to skin time with them. It’s sterile, economical, and unmatched by any type of formula on the market. In essence, it’s priceless. In today’s post, I discuss some of the benefits of breast feeding and what it can do for you and baby.
What it Does for Baby
Breast feeding provides your baby with prime nutrition. It has just as many calories as formula – 20 calories per ounce, to be exact – and it provides nourishment just as nature intended. There are over 200 different components found within breast milk that, when taken in the first months of life, provide baby with lifelong health and protection. The proteins in mothers milk are far more easily digested by baby’s stomach, and therefore break down faster. The proteins also form a protective barrier over baby’s intestines, preventing life threatening gastrointestinal illness.
Breast milk provides your baby with protection against SIDS as well, and also keeps babies at a lower risk for infant death under 1 year of age. It helps preemie babies thrive and grow, where formula just cannot give the same effect. In fact, if a preemie mom chooses not to breast feed or cannot breast feed for any reason, the option of donor milk would be discussed with the parents because it’s that important.
For the first few days of breast feeding until your real milk comes in, you will be producing colostrum – or, pre milk. This milk is known as ‘Liquid Gold’. It contains some of the most vital components for a new baby, and is literally invaluable. There is no price that one could put on such a valuable item. Your baby was actually born to breast feed. In the long term, babies who have been breast fed as opposed to those who were formula fed will usually maintain a healthier weight throughout their lives, while formula fed babies have a higher likelihood of having obesity issues. Breast fed babies are generally far healthier than those who have been formula fed as well. In fact, breast feeding safeguards your baby against illness, because they get antibodies from the mother that protect and prevent them from coming down with illness. Breast fed babies are also far less likely to get any ear infections or eye infections within the first year, or for the duration that the baby is breast fed. Here are a few other childhood ailments breast feeding prevents:
Type 1 (Childhood/Insulin Dependant) Diabetes
To touch on that last childhood ailment, did you know that breast milk actually contains a protein known as HAMLET which actually seeks and destroys cancer cells on contact? That, my friends, is absolutely incredible- and if you’re like me, and you have a family history of cancer, this makes breastfeeding so worth it for me. To know I am providing my baby with the absolute best nourishment that I possibly can makes my heart happy.
What it Does for Mom
Breastfeeding is great for mom as well. It helps to contract her uterus, bringing it back to its original size quicker than if she were to not breastfeed. Although breastfeeding cramps directly after birth and for the first few days are pretty brutal, its tolerable and very manageable with Tylenol or Advil. Breastfeeding moms also get the added benefit of having a longer period of time between birth and the first menstrual cycle to resume. This usually happens around 6 – 9 months post partum. Breast feeding also helps prevent certain cancers in the mother- such as ovarian cancer and certain breast cancers. It can also help act as a birth control, although it’s not recommended alone as pregnancy within the first months following birth is almost imminemt if you aren’t careful.
Breastfeeding also provides mom with a sense of calm as well. There are hormones released during the actual process of breastfeeding. Let’s say you’re having a bad day – these amazing hormones go to work to literally calm you down, re-center you, and help you have peace. It’s also an incredible bonding time with you and your baby.
La Leche League International (LLLI) as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding mothers breast feed for the first year of life. Solids can be introduced around 6 months of age, but breast milk should always be your baby’s main source of nourishment.
I hope you will give breastfeeding a try. I understand there are certain situations where mothers are unable to breastfeed – and I can certainly appreciate that. Breast feeding has been one of the best experiences of my life – 7 months and going strong. Its allowed me to reclaim time with my baby who was in the NICU for the first (almost) 2 months of life by giving us invaluable boding time. Sitting skin to skin with my sweet boy is so incredibly special, I just cannot put it into words. You owe it to yourself and your baby to give it a try.
Breastfeeding mamas – I want to hear from you in the comments. What are your favorite things about it? And for those who have questions, leave them in the comments section and I will do my absolute best to respond to everyone!