Human milk provides virtually all the protein, sugar, and fat your baby needs to be healthy, and it also contains many substances that benefit your baby’s immune system, including antibodies, immune factors, enzymes, and white blood cells. These substances protect your baby against a wide variety of diseases and infections not only while he is breastfeeding but in some cases long after he has weaned. Formula cannot offer this protection.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
It is recommended that babies breastfeed exclusively at least for the first 6 months of life. This means that you should not give your baby any other liquids or foods before he or she is 6 months old (unless your baby’s healthcare provider recommends otherwise). The longer your baby is fed breast milk, the better for you and your baby. Your baby can continue to breastfeed beyond his or her first birthday as long as you and your baby want to.
Benefits for Your Baby
Breastfeeding is best for your baby for the following reasons:
- The colostrum that your breasts make during the first few days after childbirth helps your newborn’s digestive system grow and function.
- Breast milk has antibodies that help your baby’s immune system fight off viruses and bacteria. Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, allergies, and colic than babies who are not breastfed. They also have fewer ear infections and less diarrhea.
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula. Breastfed babies have less gas, fewer feeding problems, and less constipation than babies who are fed formula.
- Breastfeeding decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), especially when the mother breastfeeds exclusively for at least 6 months.
- If your baby is born preterm, breast milk can help reduce the risk of many of the short-term and long-term health problems that preterm babies face.
Benefits for You
Breastfeeding is good for you as well:
- During breastfeeding, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract and return to its normal size more quickly.
- Breastfeeding may help with postpartum weight loss. Women who breastfeed for longer than 6 months tend to weigh less than women who do not breastfeed.
- Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer than women who do not breastfeed. It also has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Breastfeeding saves time and money. You do not have to buy, measure and fix formula.
Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. Before giving birth, let your healthcare provider know of your desire to breastfeed so that you can get the support you need from the very start. Keep in mind that many new mothers have problems at first. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it, we are here to help. Contact us if you have any questions or to set up an appointment.
(Some information provided by healthychildren.org).