Benefits of breastfeeding
17 June 2022

Benefits of breastfeeding

When you have a child, there seems to be a myriad of things that you have to decide pretty quickly, and not only are all of those decisions incredibly important, but everyone in your life will also have an opinion on them. One of those decisions is whether or not to breastfeed. To help with the decision-making process, here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding.

What is breastfeeding and how does it work?

Breastfeeding is simply feeding a newborn baby human breast milk directly from the breast. The milk is made and stored within the pregnant mother ready for the child's arrival, and then is released when the baby latches onto the nipple and oxytocin is formed. Whilst the baby nurses, the milk is continuously pushed out of the nipple in order to feed the child.

There are lots of benefits of breastfeeding over infant formula, even if you don't decide to do exclusive breastfeeding.

Health benefits for breastfed babies

Health benefits for breastfed babies

The majority of the benefits of breastfeeding for the child are health-related. Breast milk is completely natural, and is a bioactive liquid. It is specifically designed to help our newborns survive. Using baby breast milk can have the following benefits on child health.

1. Breast milk can reduce baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death)

SIDs, or sudden infant death syndrome, is a condition that kills hundreds of babies each year. It causes the sudden, inexplicable and unexplainable death of an otherwise healthy baby. Peer-reviewed studies have shown links between breast milk and a reduced risk of SIDs, although it isn't entirely evident as to why. Some suggest that it may be the immune system support that comes with being breastfed or perhaps the fact that a breastfed baby is easier to wake up than formula-fed babies.

2. Breast milk provides all of the necessary nutrients for babies

Human milk, like cow's milk, is full of essential vitamins and nutrients. These are targeted specifically for babies in order to support their growth and health. Breast milk has all of the right nutrients needed for a healthy baby in all of the right proportions, and the milk's composition will even develop to keep up with baby's changing needs in order to ensure child health.

3. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of health conditions

Breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of certain health conditions in addition to SIDs. These include:

  • Middle Ear Infections
  • Respiratory Tract Infections
  • Colds
  • Gut Infections
  • Intestinal Tissue Damage
  • Diabetes
  • Bowel Diseases
  • Childhood Leukemia

The World Health Organization have stated that exclusive breastfeeding in particular is linked to a lower risk of these conditions. This is when you only feed your child breast milk for the first 6 months. The antibodies within breast milk help the baby fight off any infections and diseases that might otherwise cause them discomfort or pain.

4. Baby breast milk has been linked to higher IQ

There have been some studies done into the benefits of breastfeeding that have shown that breastfed babies may well have a higher IQ later in life as well as less of a chance of developing behavioral problems. The studies showed a slight difference in brain development between formula-fed infants and breastfed babies. This difference was particularly noticeable in premature babies who have more risk of developmental disorders.


Benefits for breastfeeding moms

Many parents decide they don't want to breastfeed after having to deal with the pregnancy. Following 9 months of not drinking coffee, needing the toilet all od the time and always being tired, they decide to opt out. But, there are plenty of benefits of breastfeeding for moms, too!

1. Breastfeeding can help with weight loss

One of the first things people start asking once you've had a baby is how you're planning on losing the pregnancy weight. That's where breastfeeding comes in. One of the breastfeeding benefits is that it can help you to lose weight and get back to your pre-pregnancy size!

2. Breastfeeding can help the uterus return to normal size

When you're pregnant, your uterus stretches out to accommodate the fetus. It takes some time after giving birth for it to contract back to normal, but breastfeeding actually speeds up this process. The hormones in your body during breastfeeding encourage contracts of the uterus, making the uterus contract slowly back to its usual size.

3. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of postpartum depression

Many mothers, unfortunately, suffer from a condition called postpartum depression after they give birth. This is due to the changes that the body goes through, and it can be really quite distressing for the mother and everyone else involved. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of this condition developing, making it more likely that you'll be able to enjoy your first few months as a parent instead.

4. Breastfeeding has positive maternal health outcomes

Just like for breastfed babies, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of lots of illnesses and conditions for the mom. These include reducing the risk of heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes.

5. Breastfeeding helps to enhance the mother and child bond

The skin-t-skin contact that breastfeeding requires has been proven to enhance the bond between mothers and their newborns. Eye contact and frequent physical touch are known methods of creating a bond between children and their parents when they're very young, and breastfeeding provides ample opportunity for this.

6. Breastfeeding saves money and time

Infant formula is by no means cheap, and it also takes time to make. By breastfeeding, parents can both save money and save time, which are both incredibly useful resources when you're new parents!

How long should you breastfeed for?

Studies recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months to reap the full benefits, and then continuing to breastfeed alongside solid foods until the baby reaches 12 months old. This will allow your baby to fully enjoy all of the breastfeeding benefits as they grow through their first year of life.

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