Breastfeeding is one of the most natural human processes – but did you know it actually has a lot of advantages for babies and their mothers? Let’s look at the main benefits to consider for your family, including the benefits of breastfeeding vs. formula.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
The many breastfeeding benefits for your baby include:
Since mother’s breast milk is nature-made, it contains a nearly perfect ratio of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins and minerals to help keep baby healthy and growing.
Plus, since it’s natural, breast milk is easier for babies to digest versus infant formula.
Extra Protection from Disease
Besides being fantastic nutritionally, breast milk contains antibodies, disease-fighting components that help baby’s body fight off illness-causing bacteria and viruses.
When a baby is breastfed, their risk of developing allergies, asthma, and eczema decreases [1, 2]. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding may also help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) .
Plus, research shows babies who are only fed breast milk during their first six months of life have less diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and doctor visits than those fed formula .
Breastfeeding can also improve children’s overall health and development:
- Some studies suggest a link between breastfeeding and higher IQ scores as the child gets older .
- Breastfed babies are more likely to gain the proper amount of weight, and not become overweight, as they grow. They may also have a lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes, or even some cancers.
- In addition, breastfeeding increases opportunities for physical closeness, touching between mother and baby, and eye contact. These can support a deeper bond and sense of security with baby.
But that’s not all: breastfeeding can benefit mother, as well as baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom
One of the most well-known benefits of breastfeeding for mom is extra calorie-burning! Breastfeeding can burn 300-500 extra calories per day, which can make weight loss easier after pregnancy.
But there are other important breastfeeding benefits for the mom, too:
- It releases oxytocin, a hormone that can help the uterus shrink back to its original size after birth.
- It lowers your risk of ovarian and breast cancers, type II diabetes, and may lower your risk of osteoporosis.
- You can also save time and money if you’re not buying (and measuring out) formula or warming or sterilizing bottles in between feedings. You have more time to bond with your baby and stress less about feeding.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the World
It doesn’t stop at just mom and baby. On a wider scale, encouraging more women to breastfeed can:
- Saves baby lives: Research shows almost 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented per year if 90% of mothers stick with only breastfeeding for six months .
- Helps the workplace: According to the Office of the Surgeon General, a healthier mother and baby due to breastfeeding means mothers don’t need to miss as much work, lowering employer costs, high insurance claims and increasing peace of mind for families.
- Supports the environment: Less discarded formula and bottle packaging means less plastic and trash. Breast milk needs no packaging!
- Save money: As mentioned above, families can save a lot of money (and time) by not buying formula and extra bottles.
Health organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, support mothers breastfeeding for at least a year or longer to reap the most benefits.
What if Breastfeeding is Difficult?
Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively if possible, since supplementing with formula during this time may lead your breasts to make less milk. That being said, some women struggle more than others to breastfeed. Here are some tips:
- Even if you can’t breastfeed for the full six months to a year, some breastfeeding is better than none at all.
- Remember, the frequent demand of breastfeeding means self-care is important for you as a mom. Get as much rest as you can, focus on good nutrition, and stay hydrated.
- Stress and being anxious can also affect hormones needed for natural milk release. Try to relax and stay as calm as possible before and during nursing times.
- Reach out to a doctor or nurse, a nursing coach, or friends and family if you need help or support.
As you can see, there are many benefits of breastfeeding for new moms to consider in the first year after birth. It’s a short span of time that may offer numerous health advantages for baby—now and later in life!