Why You Should Breastfeed

Posted by Janet Heinsler on March 17, 2015

There are a lot of decisions to be made when one gets pregnant. Who will be your obstetrician, what will you name the baby, what type of birth will you have, and on and on. Probably one of the most important decisions you will make is how you will feed your newborn. Will you breast feed or will you rely on formula?

This is a very personal decision but before you make it you may want to look at the benefits of breast feeding. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences did a very large study which showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren't breastfed. Furthermore, the longer a child is breastfed the lower the risk of dying.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends strict breast feeding for the first six months of life because of the benefits it provides. Not only does it provide all the nutrients that a child needs for their first six months of life but it also provides disease fighting substances (antibodies) that come from your body that help your child fight off various diseases.

According to research, breastfeeding has important psychological and medical benefits for both you and your child. Some women cannot breastfeed for different reasons but if you can, it is important you do. Like anything, if you have never breastfed before it may take some practice before you get the hang of it. You should seek help from your doctor or a nurse if you it.
 
One of the benefits for both the mother and the baby is that it creates a close bond between the two of them. The amount of bonding that takes place between a mother and a breastfed baby is so much more than if they are bottle fed.
 
Benefits for the baby
 
Lowers the chance of SIDS -  A large study done in Germany in 2009 found that at least one month of exclusive breast feeding lowered the rate of SIDS by at least 50%. The CDC recommends breastfeeding at least six months and longer to help prevent SIDS.
 
Protects them from many illnesses - Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (i.e. no formula, no water, and no solid food) leads to fewer diseases. They suffer from less diarrhea and rarely are constipated. Babies that are breastfed are also less likely to suffer from respiratory infections, stomach viruses, ear infections, urinary tract infections and childhood diseases. When any of these illnesses do occur the babies that were breastfed did not get as sick.

The immune factor that the breast milk provides is called Immunoglobulin A (IgA). What this does is provide a protective coating on the baby’s mucous membrane in the intestines, nose and throat.  Although they don’t know why, scientists have also found that breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of childhood cancers.
 
Higher IQ - Some studies have shown that those who are breastfed show a slightly higher IQ than those who receive formula. Some posit this to the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is found in the mother’s milk. This fatty acid is essential for the growth of a baby’s brain. A study of 4,000 five year olds showed that they had a much more extensive vocabulary than those who were not breastfed and that they continued to have a better one.
 
Easier on baby's stomach - Colostrum milk (the first milk that comes from a new mother) is much easier on their stomach than formula. Not only is it easier on baby's stomach but it changes on a daily basis to meet the baby’s needs.
 
Cognitive and emotional development - The skin to skin contact that occurs between the mother and baby goes a long way for the baby’s emotional and cognitive development.
 
Better mouths - Due to the fact that nipples offer little resistance to the baby’s suckling the baby who takes formula does not have a well-developed mouth. Those who are breastfed have a stronger jaw, better teeth and well developed palates because they have to work harder for their food.
 
More adventurous eater - Researchers have found that babies who are breastfed are more adventurous eaters when they start eating regular food. This is because a mother’s breast food takes on the flavor of whatever she eats.
 
Protects your child from obesity - An article published in the American Journal of Epidemiology which reviewed 17 studies on the relationship between breast feeding and obesity concluded that those children who were breastfed were much less likely to become obese as a teen or an adult.
 
Benefits to the Mother
 
Reduces your stress and the chances of postpartum depression - The NIH, after reviewing over 9,000 studies, came to the conclusion that those mothers who breastfed were less likely to develop postpartum depression. The reason for this is that when mothers breastfeed they release the hormone oxytocin. Several studies have shown that oxytocin causes relaxation and nurturing and thus less depression.
 
Lower blood pressure - A study showed that those moms who breastfed and hence had higher levels of oxytocin had lower blood pressures.
 
Less bleeding - The higher levels of oxytocin also causes the uterus to contract after birth resulting less bleeding after birth.
 
Protects against cancer - Scientists have found that those mothers who breastfeed are less likely to get breast and ovarian cancer; the longer one breast feeds the more their chances go down. It appears that a year is the amount of time a woman should breast feed in order to reduce her chances of breast cancer by a measurable amount.
 
Lessens osteoporosis - Women who do not breastfeed are four times more likely to get osteoporosis and to suffer a hip fracture when they reach menopause.
 
Promotes postpartum weight loss - Mothers who breastfed for a month had lost significantly more weight than those who did not breastfeed and they were also quicker to return to their previous weight.
 
Costs less - The American Academy of Pediatrics estimated that it cost $400 less a year to breast feed a baby