Every woman’s journey to motherhood is different. Yet, all mothers-to-be are faced with the same dilemma, how to feed their newborn baby. The truth is that new mothers are faced with the challenge of whether to breastfeed exclusively and if yes for how long or should they use formula?
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is often devalued and in many parts of the world it must compete with relentless advertising by infant-formula companies. Still, only very few people are unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding.
Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula. Although pollutants can accumulate in breast milk, it remains superior to infant formula as it has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat; everything a baby needs in order to grow properly.
And most importantly, it’s all provided in a form that is easily digested, unlike formula.
Even though, infant formulas are able to mimic a few of the nutritional components of breast milk, they cannot duplicate the essential nutrients in human milk and in under no circumstances can they overcome the health benefits breastfeeding offers to the the baby as a newborn but later in adult life too.
Benefits for the baby
- offers protection from conditions that appear later in life, like type I and II diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and Crohn’s disease
- protects against the development of allergies and asthma
- even though it is not known how it is done, breastfeeding protects against certain childhood cancers
- children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests and perform better in school
- babies who were breastfed had significantly higher scores on a vocabulary test at 5 years of age than children who were not breastfed. And the scores were higher the longer they had been nursed
- breastfeeding reduces a child’s risk of becoming overweight as a teen or adult
- exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month of age cuts the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in half
- a recent study published at the end of July 2014 revealed that young adults that breastfed for 3 months or more as babies have a significantly lower risk of chronic inflammation associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases
Still, what is often overlooked or left unknown is the benefits that breastfeeding offers to the mother herself. Rarely, people talk about how breastfeeding helps the mother yet everyone should be aware of how she can benefit from it.
The mother benefits too
- Breastfeeding protects women against postpartum depression and stress according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). More specifically, it reviewed more than 9,000 study abstracts and concluded that women who didn’t breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early on had a higher risk of postpartum depression
- research has shown that breastfeeding for more than six months may safeguard nonsmoking mothers against breast cancer
- breastfeeding causes the hormone oxytocin to be released, which helps the mother’s uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size quicker
- it may reduce uterine bleeding after birth
- gives the mother more precious time to bond with her baby, as it also provides regular time for the mother to relax quietly with her newborn while they bond
- it helps a woman lose the extra weight of the pregnancy more easily after birth compared to women who do not breastfeed
- appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation
- protects against rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a new study revealed. Women who had breastfed their children were around half as likely to have RA compared to women who had never breastfed
- and of course, breastfeeding saves money since infant formula is quite costly
Breastfeeding is natural but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Watching mothers breastfeed can make it seem simple but the truth is that many women need help and coaching in order to do it.
Reach out to friends, family, and your doctor with any questions you may have. Most likely, the women in your life have had those same questions.
Many medical authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding.
Making the decision to breastfeed , however, is a personal matter even though, for some weird reason, it is likely to draw strong opinions from friends and family. Everyone will state their opinion on the matter regardless of what you think or want.