With so much information floating around on the internet, it can be difficult to make up your mind about breastfeeding. The best thing you can do is to think about what’s important for you as a mother and then compare and contrast the benefits of both breastfeeding and formula-feeding.
To help you make a decision, we’ve compiled a list of the advantages of breastfeeding. We discuss, in-depth, its benefits for both the child and the mother.
If you have serious concerns or questions about breastfeeding, we recommend consulting with a healthcare professional.
Benefits for the Child
- Ideal nutrition for babies
Healthcare professionals recommend breastfeeding a baby for six months after the birth. This is because breast milk contains all the nutrients that your baby will need in the early stages of their growth. Additionally, breastfeeding ensures that your baby receives the correct portions.
Breast milk’s composition will even adapt to your child’s needs as their body grows and develops. Colostrum, the yellow fluid produced in the first few days after giving birth, is a high-protein, low-sugar substance. The milk then changes into transitional milk, which has more fat and calories. Finally, around the four-week mark, the breastmilk matures. Mature breast milk will give your child the necessary proteins, sugars and hormones for their growth and development.
On the other hand, breast milk lacks the necessary amount of vitamin D that your child needs. Because of this, vitamin D drops are often recommended by healthcare professionals.
- Reduces the risk of disease
Because breast milk is sterile, it can reduce the risk of your child developing a serious disease. Breastfed babies are more likely to avoid diseases and illnesses like ear infections, respiratory tract infections, gut infections and childhood leukemia. It also reduces the risk of your child becoming lactose intolerant.
Breast milk contains specific proteins that help fight against infections and diseases. This includes lactoferrin, a component that binds to iron; lysozymes, an enzyme that fights against viruses and bacteria; and Secretory IgA, an immunoglobulin that also protects the child from viruses and bacteria.
It’s important to remember that this benefit only applies to babies that are exclusively breastfed. When compared to breastfed babies, the risk of hospitalisation due to a respiratory disease is 250% higher in babies who are formula fed.
- Promotes healthy weight
Breastfeeding also ensures that your child maintains a healthy weight. If you breastfeed your child, you reduce their risk of developing early childhood obesity. This is due to breast milk providing beneficial gut bacteria that prevents excessive weight gain.
Breastfeeding is also linked to lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes. Additionally, breastfed babies have more leptin, which regulates the baby’s appetite and fat storage.
It’s important to keep in mind that the time that your baby eats is as important as what your baby eats. Breastfeeding helps the child establish a healthy eating pattern. They will learn to stop once they’ve satisfied their hunger.
Benefits for the Mother
- Saves time and money
Breastfeeding is free. Of course, there are items that you can buy that can make the process easier. This might include breastfeeding friendly clothing or breast pumps. On the whole, however, you can save a lot of money as you won’t have to budget for formula milk, bottles and other necessities for formula-feeding. Additionally, it saves you time as you won’t have to prepare milk on a daily basis.
- Lowers the risk of depression
Postpartum depression (PPD) can occur shortly after childbirth. Originally, it was thought that the relationship between breastfeeding and PPD was unidirectional. That is, researchers believed that early PPD simply led to less breastfeeding.
However, more recent studies have shown that the relationship between the two might be more complicated. It would seem that mother’s who don’t engage in breastfeeding can become more vulnerable to developing PPD.
Many studies have been done regarding this phenomenon. However, the exact reasoning behind it is still unclear. There’s a possibility that it is due to a combination of psychological, physiological and sociocultural factors.
Regardless, if you are experiencing symptoms of PPD, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you can.
- Can help mothers lose weight
Breastfeeding can help mothers burn more calories. Three months after lactation, you will likely experience an increase in fat burning. The amount of calories you’ll lose is often significantly more compared to non-breastfeeding mothers. Those who breastfeed are more likely to reach their pre-pregnancy weight half a year earlier than their formula-feeding counterparts.
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are said to burn 500 additional calories in a day. For context, that’s about the amount of calories you lose after doing 60 minutes of physical activity at medium-intensity.
When breastfeeding mothers are often conscious of what they put into their bodies. This means less processed foods and more healthy proteins and vegetables in one’s diet.
As the mother, it’s ultimately your decision whether or not you want to breastfeed your child. With all the information out there, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused. Consider the points above and see if it coincides with what is important to you. It’s important to reiterate that if you have major or specific concerns about breastfeeding, you should consult with a healthcare professional.