In one way, it can be hard to talk about breastfeeding benefits. The reason is that it can generate so much guilt in new moms who for some reason don’t breastfeed. And guilt is far from what makes a happy new mother and baby!
That said, there are real advantages of breastfeeding, both for mom and baby. I am personally quite amazed by all the possible positive effects.
Remember, the benefits don’t disappear if you have to combine breast milk with formula. To really boost your baby’s health, start eating healthy already during pregnancy.
Let’s start with taking a look at the many benefits of breast milk for your baby. Benefits for mom can be found furhter down the page.
Breastfeeding Benefits For Your Baby
- Protection against diseases
- Sticky protection
- Allergy protection
- Higher IQ
- Reduced risk for obesity
- Reduced risk for childhood leukemia
- Type 1 diabetes protection
- Lower risk of SIDS
- Less sensitive to stress
- Protection for preemies
Protection against diseases
Breast milk reduces the risk of common infections, such as ear infections, respiratory problems, diarrhea and urinary tract infection.
Several studies also indicate a connection between lack of breastfeeding and later development of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two serious inflammatory bowel diseases.
The protection remains for years after you have stopped breastfeeding your baby. And your baby will be protected even if you combine breastfeeding with formula.
Recent research indicated clear-cutstfeeding, also combined to some extent with formula can postpone allergies and asthma.
The breastfeeding benefits of protection from allergy later in life are not completely clear cut. However, one of the largest studies carried out indicates that children that only breastfeed for at least 4 months have a lower risk of developing asthma and eczema during their first four years.
Other studies indicate a reduce risk for both eczema, food allergy, and respiratory allergy–throughout childhood and adolescence.
Several studies show that babies that are breastfed for at least 6 months have a higher IQ than other babies.
Researchers believe that part of the explanation is the bonding that takes place between mother and child. Also, fatty acids in the breast milk are believed to contribute to the baby’s brain development.
However, a recent study suggests that this connection is false or actually the opposite and that the results are due to the fact that moms with an academic education (and supposedly a higher IQ) tend to breastfeed their babies more.
I guess the jury is still out…
Reduced risk for obesity
While not unchallenged, several studies indicate a lower risk for adult obesity as a breastfeeding benefit.
A healthy eating pattern, as well as less insulin in breast milk than in formula, are two possible explanations.
Reduced risk for childhood leukemia
There also appears to be a lower risk of childhood leukemia among breastfed babies.
Experts believe that antibodies in the breast milk are the most likely explanation.
Type 1 diabetes protection
One study indicates that the risk of getting type 1 diabetes is 1.5 times higher if a child is introduced to cow’s milk (through e.g. formula) before the age of four months, as compared to children that are only breastfed.
Lower risk of SIDS
Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), although it is not clear how or how much.
Less sensitive to stress
A recent study indicates that breastfed children cope better with stress later in life. The bonding rather than the breast milk is a likely explanation. You can learn how to use attachment parenting style for bonding with your baby here, regardless of if you breastfeed or not.
Protection for preemies
Premature babies seem to get a special protection from breastfeeding against both infections and high blood pressure later in life.
Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom
It may seem strange, but breastfeeding mothers seem to be less exhausted than those who feed their babies formula according to some studies. How in the world is that possible? Well, the breastfeeding hormones may help mom relax and sleep better.
(I know, I know, if you breastfeed right now and feel like you are about to die from lack of sleep, this may seem like a really poor joke. I breastfed both my babies, so I can’t personally tell if there really is a difference. This is what research studies claim. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts on this by leaving a comment below. 🙂 )
Breastfeeding, you’ll burn some 500 calories more every day. So unless you “eat for two”, the breastfeeding may help you loose some weight. Nice!
Helps your uterus contract
The hormone oxytocin, which is released in your body during breastfeeding helps the contraction of your uterus back to normal. Besides looking pregnant for a shorter time period after giving birth, this also means that you may have a shorter postpartum bleeding.
Reduced cancer risk
Some studies indicate that the risk of getting both breast and ovarian cancer is reduced through breastfeeding. The lower estrogen levels during the period of breastfeeding are likely to play a role.
Protection against osteoporosis
There are conflicting results in different studies regarding breastfeeding and osteoporosis. Mothers do lose some bone density during the period of breastfeeding, but this appears to be reversed after weaning. Some studies indicate of lower incidence of osteoporosis later in life among women that have breastfed.
Simple, cheap and practical
If breastfeeding works, it is very convenient and economical compared to formula. It is also environmentally friendly…
This was a long list of breastfeeding benefits, right?! When I did the research to complete this list, I decided to postpone the introduction of solid food for my baby.
But at some point, it is time for solid food. Fun, exciting and greasy. For lots of baby feeding tips, click here.
If you want to learn more about what breastfeeding can do for your baby, and how you can breastfeed to prevent or mitigate colic, how you can affect your breastmilk supply with herbs and your diet and much more, check out the book Mother Food: A Breastfeeding Diet Guide with Lactogenic Foods and Herbs – Build Milk Supply, Boost Immunity, Lift Depression, Detox, Lose Weight, Optimize a Baby’s IQ, and Reduce Colic and Allergies. Great book, longest title ever! 🙂 (Link goes to Amazon.)