Top 3 Benefits of Breastfeeding

Top 3 Benefits of BreastfeedingAs World Breastfeeding Week nears an end, we couldn’t let the celebration pass us by without reminding everyone of some of the incredible benefits of breastfeeding.  While the list could go into the hundreds, today we’re sharing our top three benefits of breastfeeding.  And as this year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme reminds us, breastfeeding should be possible, protected and encouraged as mothers return to work so families can continue to offer their babies the very best nutrition for their growing bodies.

The World Health Organization and the American Academy for Pediatrics both recommend exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months of your baby’s life and recognizes the many benefits of breastfeeding beyond these first few months.  That’s why the ability to continue breastfeeding at work is crucial for new moms to meet critical health goals for their babies.  Here’s why:

Breastfeeding Supports Your Baby’s Immune System

As parents, first and foremost, we want our children to be healthy.  There is no better, faster or more loving way to protect the health of your baby than breastfeeding.  Aren’t we always on a mission to find the holy grail of whole foods that are perfectly healthy?  Well, look no further than breast milk, which is the ultimate superfood with the ideal blend of protein, fat and essential vitamins for your baby’s growth and development.  Perhaps most importantly, breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby defend itself against germs before her immune system can perform on its own.  Plus, you’re supporting your baby’s immune health from the day she’s born through her entire lifetime.

Starting at birth, early breast milk called colostrum is chock full of immunoglobulin A, a substance that builds a shielding layer of mucus membranes in the gut, nose and throat where germs tend to enter and attack the body.  As your baby grows and matures, breast milk adapts to the needs of your baby and is specifically tailored to guard against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that threaten her little body.  During infancy, breastfeeding can reduce the risk and occurrence of many common illnesses that arise during the first year such as ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and even SIDS.  But the power of breastfeeding extends well beyond infancy.

Numerous studies conclude that breastfeeding lowers a child’s risk for many life-threatening or life-altering diseases including cancer, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease and other digestive disorders, and a variety of food and airborne allergies.  Furthermore, breastfeeding can reduce risk factors for illnesses, such as obesity, high blood pressure and poor dietary choices.

Breastfeeding Encourages Emotional Bonding and Intelligence

The act of breastfeeding engages mother and child in an unprecedented and irreplaceable emotional bond.  This emotional attachment from the closeness of skin-to-skin contact has many of its own advantages including regulating a baby’s temperature and heartbeat, making babies feel safe and secure, building trust and syncing mother and child to know and understand each other’s cues.  Bonding during breastfeeding is also linked to intelligence.  The warmth and security of being in mother’s arms promotes brain connectivity and ultimately improved cognition.

Breast milk also contains some incredible brain-loving nutrients that give babies and children more brain power.  The most important of these nutrients is essential fatty acids.  Adults have to eat brain foods rich in essential fatty acids like salmon, nuts and avocados to reap these benefits.  Babies only need suckle the breast to enjoy the most wholesome essential fatty acids that mom has to offer.  Studies show that breastfed children have higher IQs on average and premature babies who are breastfed have greater mental development than those who are not.

Breastfeeding is Good for Mothers

Babies need healthy moms to take good care of them.  Breastfeeding can improve the health of mothers while also offering the very best to their babies.  Physically, breastfeeding and pregnancy reduces the risk of certain type of cancers as they cause women to have less menstrual cycles and spikes of certain hormones in a lifetime.  Mothers who breastfeed also experience less osteoporosis and have an easier time losing weight after childbirth.

Emotionally, breastfeeding has tremendous benefits for moms as well.  Breastfeeding triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps mothers relax and feel less stressed, which is important as you’re navigating life with a new baby.  This helps keep new moms in a nurturing mode and prevents the elevation of blood pressure during stressful situations.  For this reason, women who breastfeed have less reported incidence and severity of postpartum depression and have an easier time bonding with their babies.  Additionally, oxytocin helps reduce postpartum bleeding as it contracts the uterus back to its normal size faster.

 

We hope this World Breastfeeding Week has opened your eyes to many new, interesting, exciting and inspirational aspects of breastfeeding.  Whether you are a new mom or a breastfeeding advocate, we can all stand up for the rights of mother’s everywhere to breastfeed!