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The Simple Benefits of Breastfeeding

You've probably heard, vaguely, about the many benefits of breastfeeding. Transform your fuzzy cloud of good-intentions into a mountain of solid facts. Knowing the specifics will bolster your resolve to keep at it, and boost your mom-confidence meter to new heights.

Of course, if you're still a little unsure about breastfeeding, spend a few moments comparing it with formula feeding. The unbiased information (because I've done both) will help you make your decision.

But first, here are some basic statistics on breastfeeding:

  • Approximately 44% of all newborns in the USA are breastfed at birth.
  • By 6 months, only 20% are being breastfed.
  • A healthy newborn, properly attached to the breast and sucking continuously, will empty about 90% of the milk available on each side within 10 minutes.
  • Studies have shown that healthier babies grow into healthier adults.

The Benefits of Time and Money

Of all the advantages of breastfeeding discussed by moms, the most common are the blessings that breast feeding brings to your wallet and watch. Breastfeeding saves you time and money.

Today, most formula is over $1 an ounce. Yikes! Breastfeeding costs...nada. Some experts have estimated that you will spend almost $1700 in the first year on formula alone. Skip the formula, and put the $1700 in a college fund instead! (Of course, if you do get the occasional can of formula, seek free formula first!)

Besides the money saving benefits of breastfeeding, another major advantage is convenience. It may seem like a little thing, but having to go all the way to the kitchen to prepare a bottle several times a night is not much fun. (It's even worse if you can't fall back asleep!) Once you've developed a breastfeeding routine, you can do the whole process in the dark: your baby happily eating...and you quietly snoozing in the rocking chair until he's finished.

In terms of equipment, you never haver to worry about forgetting a bottle. You can openly breastfeed, or (if you're shy like me) purchase a nursing cover to easily and comfortably breastfeed anywhere in the world. (Click here to read my review of Bebe au Lait nursing covers.)

The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mommy

Your bountiful bosom really does create the elixir of life. You'll be amazed at how many nutrients and vital vitamins your breastmilk provides. And that's just for your baby. The very act of producing breastmilk on a regular basis provides extra bonuses for your health as well.


Emotional Advantages of Breastfeeding

A Reminder: You can just as easily be confident and bond with your baby well without breastfeeding. However, many mothers report that successful breastfeeding gives an extra boost - since it is something only you can provide.
  • The skin-to-skin contact is soothing to your infant, and promotes good bonding for you both.
  • A majority of the mothers who breastfeed report feeling more attached, protective, and confident in their ability to nurture and care for their children.
Side Note: Is breastfeeding a struggle for you? Are you thinking of giving it up? Read this article on overcoming nursing challenges, post here for some help, and give it a little while longer. Perseverance and good technique is the key!


Physical Benefits of Breast Feeding

Immediately after you deliver the placenta (the last stage of delivery), your body will send a signal to your brain asking for a certain hormone (oxytocin) to be released. The oxytocin helps your uterus to begin contracting back to its normal size.

This same hormone also stimulates your mammary glands to begin producing milk. The more your breastfeed, the faster your uterus will shrink to its usual size, and the more milk your breasts will produce.

Although breastfeeding is not a sure-fire method of birth control, it does help delay your fertility. Most women do not get their menstrual cycle while breastfeeding. However, the absence of the cycle doesn't mean you are pregnant-proof! Plan on using another form of birth control if you are not wanting to get pregnant right away.

Other health benefits of breastfeeding are...

  • You will have a decreased risk of ovarian cancer and it may prevent hip fractures later in life.
  • Women who breastfeed a lifetime total of 2 years have a 40% less chance of getting breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding mothers generally lose their baby weight faster than non-breastfeeding mothers.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby


The Breastmilk Goodie Bag

Despite huge developments in the world of manufactured formula, there are still some ingredients in breastmilk that have yet to be duplicated. Formula will supply your baby's nutritional needs just as well as breastmilk, but it will not be able to give your baby the same immune-boosting antibodies. The huge boost breastmilk gives your baby's immune system remains one of the best benefits of breastfeeding.

  • Compared to cow's milk, the carbohydrate component in breastmilk contains a much higher percentage of lactose, which appears to play an important role in brain development and calcium absorption.
  • Breastmilk helps to create a protective environment in the intestines that will resist the common bacterias that cause diarrhea.
  • Some dentists believe that the act of sucking on a breast (rather than a bottle, which requires a different technique) paves the way for proper development of the mouth and positioning of the teeth so there is no overcrowding. They also contend that it promotes the development of a wide dental arch (which is a good thing!).
  • Infants exclusively breastfed for 6 months are less likely to become obese children.
  • Babies breastfed for 6 months have 3 times fewer ear infections, 5 times fewer urinary tract infections, 5 times fewer serious illnesses, and 7 times fewer allergic reactions.
  • Baby girls who were breastfed have a 25% less chance of having breast cancer when they get older.
  • Babies in intensive care spend an average of only 9.5 days there if they are breastfed, as opposed to 20.5 days for non-breastfed babies in NICU.
  • Children who were breastfed are less likely to develop diabetes.
  • Breastmilk contains natural laxatives that reduces the chance of constipation.
  • Breastfeeding lowers your infant's chance of SIDS.
  • Breastmilk naturally adjusts to the needs of your growing baby. The nutrient and fat composition of your breastmilk will be different for your 9-month old than it was for your 9-week old.
  • Breastmilk has antibacterial properties.
  • Breast feeding requires your baby to use less energy than bottle-feeding (especially important in sickly infants).
  • Vitamin A deficiencies are reduced by breastfeeding.

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The benefits of breastfeeding are overwhelming. Breastfeeding a little (for even a little while) can only help your baby. Even if you supplement with formula, every ounce of breastmilk will boost your baby's health for future months to come.

If you're still on the fence about breastfeedingh, check out these other articles about baby nursing. I also have a great section on breastfeeding related books and helpful items. You can see those nursing products reviewed here.

Sources of Research

Click here to view the sources that were used in researching this article.

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