New parents spend hours researching the best car seats, strollers and cribs. They begin saving for college and thinking about preschool before baby can even walk. But if you were to ask any doctor the number one thing you can do for your infant, the answer would be obvious—breastfeed. In honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, let’s take a look at some of the surprising benefits of breastfeeding.
- One of the most important breastfeeding facts is that breast milk is a big boost to baby’s immunity, helping fight infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, bacterial meningitis, colds and flus. This means fewer visits to the doctor and hospital and a healthier start to life.
- Breastfeeding reduces mothers’ risk of breast cancer. One study showed that women who had breastfed were 25% less likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer than women who had never breastfed.
- Oxytocin—also known as “the cuddle hormone”—is released during breastfeeding. Oxytocin helps the mother’s uterus contract, but it also facilitates the bonding process and can counteract some of the stresses of breastfeeding.
- Want your 10-year-old to be the kind of kid who lives on more than chicken nuggets and pizza? Formula, which has only one taste, can launch them on the path of picky eating. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, exposes your baby to many different tastes.
- About that college fund—women who breastfeed for one year can save approximately $2,000 that would otherwise be spent on formula.
- Formula tends to be one-size-fits-all, but a mother’s body is constantly tweaking the recipe to make the perfect milk for her baby. A mother’s milk can even change on a day-to-day basis, increasing in water contents on a hot day, for example.
- Milk sends a message. A study of monkeys demonstrates that a hormone present in milk, cortisol, can have profound effects on how babies develop. Think of it as a chemical signal sent from mother to baby. While it would be impossible to replicate that study on humans, researchers agreed that human milk is likely to be more complex than previously thought.
- Breastfeeding can help mom get back in shape faster. This 2011 study concluded that women who breastfed exclusively for eight months had an average weight loss of 30.3 pounds versus 26.3 pounds for women who did not exclusively breastfeed.
- Babies who are breastfed may have a lower rate of asthma. According to one study, children who were never breastfed had almost 50% more risk of wheezing symptoms as compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months. Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of becoming obese.
Those benefits are hard to pass up, as we all want the best for our children. However, it’s also a fact that some women find breastfeeding easier than others and it requires both patience and guidance. For lactation questions and information, please contact our lactation consultants at 419-660-2117 ext. 6491 and visit our breastfeeding page for more resources and information.