It’s not hard to come up with great reasons to breastfeed your kids. For many moms, the precious bonding time that breastfeeding allows is benefit enough. Others want to raise their kid in the most natural way possible, and that means following nature’s intended plan to have mom be baby’s source of nutrition. And, it turns out, breastmilk is by far the most healthy diet for a baby to grow on; the scientific studies keep rolling in, singing its praises. But, breastfeeding isn’t only good for baby’s health– it’s great for mom’s as well. From warding off infections in baby, to boosting mom’s psychological health, the health benefits of breastfeeding are nearly too many to count.
Benefits for Baby
Protect Against Infectious Disease
Breast milk is nature’s antibacterial agent. Breastfeeding for as little as four months has been shown to make babies much less likely to develop infections. And, we’re talking all sorts of infections here, from upset tummies, to colds, ear infections, thrush, and urinary tract infections. After breastfed infants do happen to get sick, the illness is less severe than in their non-breastfed counterparts.
While scientists are still pinpointing what exactly is in breastmilk that makes it so beneficial, they think it’s related to its high number of antibodies. The presence of these antibodies in your child’s blood means that sickness protection doesn’t only last while they’re little, but continues throughout their lives. (healthfinder.gov)
Decrease the Risk of Obesity
While there are certainly many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, like the obvious ones of a high calorie diet and lack of exercise, recent studies have shown that infant nutrition can also have a significant effect. Several scientific studies have linked breastfeeding to a greatly decreased risk of childhood obesity. And, the length of breastfeeding mattered—the longer the child was breastfed, the less likely they were to become obese. (NSW Public Health Bulletin)
Benefits for Mom
Prevent Breast Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Breastfeeding is good for your boobs, there’s no doubt about it. Some 47 studies in countries around the world confirmed the effect. For every 12 months you spend breastfeeding, you’re 4.3% less likely to get breast cancer. A high level of estrogen in your body is a risk factor for developing breast cancer; breast feeding keeps estrogen levels lower for an extended period of time.
A few recent studies have also shown the benefits of breastfeeding for rheumatoid arthritis and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding keeps you from ovulating (you know, that lovely thing where you don’t have a period). Some scientists believe that women who ovulate less are less likely to contract ovarian cancer. (NSW Public Health Bulletin)
Lose Weight and Feel Better
While breastfeeding, your body is certainly working harder, using an extra 500-700 calories a day to make the milk your child needs. How could breastfeeding possibly be designed better? It’s the natural way to lose the weight you put on while pregnant. And, breastfeeding is great for your mental health as well. Breastfeeding moms get less depressed and stressed out than those that bottle feed. While breastfeeding, your nervous system literally becomes better at regulating and dealing with environmental stressors. (NSW Public Health Bulletin)
That’s quite a few benefits, for both your child and for you. While breastfeeding can sometimes be difficult, with the amount of time it takes and its continuing lack of acceptance in society, you might sometimes ask yourself why you even bother. Well, here’s why. And, you can count a lot of these benefits as not only good in themselves, but good in the amount of time they generate for you: a less sick kid means less trips to the doctor; feeling happier will make you more productive. No matter how you crack it, the benefits of breastfeeding greatly outweigh the trials.
Joy Paley is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on ultrasound technician schools for the Guide to Health Education.