Benefits of breastfeeding

Hey everyone, it’s Shanon G. As you all know I am nearing the end of my pregnancy (9 months!) and lately I have been researching the benefits of breastfeeding. I was truly shocked at what I discovered. Now I have always assumed I would feed my little one formula so that I could “get my body back” ASAP and not have to worry about leaky and engorged boobs, pumping, sore nipples, and all the other not-so-fun issues that sometimes come with breastfeeding. Well I have certainly changed my tune! The benefits to both mother and baby are incredible, check it out!

Benefits to baby:

Many studies show that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which help the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines.

Respiratory illness is far more common among formula-fed children. In fact, an analysis of many different research studies concluded that infants fed formula face a threefold greater risk of being hospitalized with a severe respiratory infection than do infants breast-fed for a minimum of four months.

Diarrheal disease is three to four times more likely to occur in infants fed formula than those fed breast milk.

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of ear infections, and to prevent recurrent ear infections. Ear infections are a major reason that infants take multiple courses of antibiotics.

In developing countries, differences in infection rates can seriously affect an infant’s chances for survival. For example, in Brazil, a formula-fed baby is 14 times more likely to die than an exclusively breast-fed baby.

Researchers have observed a decrease in the probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in breast-fed infants.

Another apparent benefit from breastfeeding may be protection from allergies. Eczema, an allergic reaction, is significantly rarer in breast-fed babies. A review of 132 studies on allergy and breastfeeding concluded that breastfeeding appears to help protect children from developing allergies, and that the effect seems to be particularly strong among children whose parents have allergies.

Benefits to the Child Later in Life

Some benefits of breastfeeding become apparent as the child grows older. Among the benefits demonstrated by research:
Infants who are breast-fed longer have fewer dental cavities throughout their lives.

Several recent studies have shown that children who were breast-fed are significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood. Formula feeding is linked to about a 20 to 30 percent greater likelihood that the child will become obese.

Children who are exclusively breast-fed during the first three months of their lives are 34 percent less likely to develop juvenile, insulin-dependent diabetes than children who are fed formula.

Breastfeeding may also decrease the risk of childhood cancer in children under 15 years of age. Formula-fed children are eight times more likely to develop cancer than children who are nursed for more than six months. (It is important to note that children who are breast-fed for less than six months do not appear to have any decreased cancer risk compared to bottle-fed children.)

As children grow into adults, several studies have shown that people who were breast-fed as infants have lower blood pressure on average than those who were formula-fed. Thus, it is not surprising that other studies have shown that heart disease is less likely to develop in adults who were breast-fed in infancy.

Significant evidence suggests that breast-fed children develop fewer psychological, behavioral and learning problems as they grow older. Studies also indicate that cognitive development is increased among children whose mothers choose to breastfeed.

In researching the psychological benefits of breast milk, one researcher found that breast-fed children were, on average, more mature, assertive and secure with themselves as they developed.

Benefits to the mother:

Studies indicate that breastfeeding helps improve mothers’ health, as well as their children’s. A woman grows both physically and emotionally from the relationship she forms with her baby. Just as a woman’s breast milk is designed specifically to nourish the body of an infant, the production and delivery of this milk aids her own health. For example:

Breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after birth. Mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk. In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation.

Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.

When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective — more effective than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of four births per woman, and in Bangladesh it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.

Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.

Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down.

Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.

Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.

The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby.

A woman’s ability to produce all of the nutrients that her child needs can provide her with a sense of confidence. Researchers have pointed out that the bond of a nursing mother and child is stronger than any other human contact. Holding the child to her breast provides most mothers with a more powerful psychological experience than carrying the fetus inside her uterus. The relationship between mother and child is rooted in the interactions of breastfeeding. This feeling sets the health and psychological foundation for years to come.

I hope that any pregnant women out there who are undecided whether they plan to formula or breastfeed will seriously consider the benefits to both mom and baby. As for me there is no way I am going to formula feed unless for some reason I am unable to breastfeed. Breast REALLY IS best!

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