The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Making the decision of breastfeeding or not is a personal one. Everyone from your friends to your spouse to your doctor will have an opinion on whether you should breastfeed your child or use formula instead but the decision ultimately lies with the mother. Don’t feel bad if you’re unsure about how to proceed. Doubt is normal and the fact that you are willing to do some research shows that you are invested in making the best choices for your child.
So how do you know if you’re making the right choice or not?
BREASTFEEDING VS. FORMULA
Mothers are always wrecked with guilt about their choices. They want the absolute best for their children but at the same time they have to be practical and give what they can. Choosing between breast-milk and formula is one of those hard decisions. Breast-milk is nature’s baby food. It is a completely natural mix and many people believe that this should be the only thing that you give your infant child but the truth is that breast-milk may not always be enough.
Throughout history there have been mothers who could not breastfeed their children due to latching issues, low supply and a baby’s inability to gain weight while on breast-milk alone. A healthy diet can improve the volume of breast-milk produced but latching problems and an inability to gain weight on breast-milk are difficult problems to tackle. In such cases the mother will need another option. Infant formula is the best alternative for mother’s who can’t or choose not to breastfeed. It is designed under sterile conditions and duplicates the nutritional content in mother’s milk in a way that can’t be done at home. Be sure to use commercially prepared formula and do not attempt to make your own.
Scientists have done all that they can to make formula as effective as possible but what it gives in convenience, it lacks in quality. They’ll never be able to match the complexity of breast-milk which changes to adapt to a baby’s growing needs. This is an important point to remember if you can breastfeed but choose not to. Nutritional content is not the only factor that makes women choose formula over breastfeeding. Many couples opt for formula because it allows a mother’s partner to enjoy the process of feeding as well. Formula allows them to take some of the workload off of mother when it comes to nighttime feedings and have a share of the bonding experience that comes with feeding. Being able to share the feeding duties is a benefit that is hard to ignore. Mothers who feed with formula can also enjoy the benefit of being able to consume whatever they want. They can drink alcohol, take medication and eat any food that they desire without having to worry about making their children sick. After nine months of restrictions, this sense of freedom is very important for some mothers.
THE BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING FOR BABY
Breast milk provides the best source of nutrition for infants. It is a special mix made especially by Mother Nature to provide infants with all of the nutrients that they need in order to make it though the earliest stages of life. It contains enzymes and immune-boosting antibodies that scientists are not even close to replicating. Here are a few other ways that your baby will benefit from taking breast milk rather than formula.
A Food Source That Adapts To Baby’s Needs
Breast-milk changes its constitution to match the baby’s needs as it develops. Your baby needs a strong fix of antibodies during the first few days and breastfeeding is a way to provide your baby with those antibodies. Colostrum, for example, is pre-milk which is produced right after the birth. It has a high concentration of antibodies and protein with few sugars. This is the best nutritional mix for a baby in the first days after birth. Full milk will start to come about three days after delivery. The milk will now have a higher sugar-content and will be much thicker than colostrum which is exactly what the baby needs at this stage. The increased caloric content will fuel his rapid growth. Formula cannot adapt in this way. Some formulas are designed for earlier days than others which means that the mother must constantly be aware of what kind of formula she is buying. Feeding with breast milk instead will save her a lot of time that would have been spent reading labels. Boosts The Immune-System A strong immune system is the greatest benefit of breast-milk over formula. This has been proven in studies which showed that breastfed babies were less likely to suffer from illnesses such as inflammatory bowels, respiratory infections, ear infection and gastroenteritis. Babies who weren’t breastfed were found to be up to three times more likely to suffer from common infections. Breastfed babies are also more likely to make it past infancy. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has been found to affect half as many breastfed babies as formula-fed babies. The connection between SIDS and breastfeeding has yet to be established but the information that we do have makes it clear that it is less likely to affect breastfed babies.
Better Brain Development
The first six months are crucial for a baby’s development. Brain mass almost doubles during this time and a study run on US babies showed that babies who were breastfed rather than given formula during this crucial period had up to 30% more white matter in their brains. White matter is what connects the different parts of the brain and allows messages to be transmitted. Studies run in other parts of the world showed similar results. 16 year-olds in the UK who were breastfed for six months or more were found to perform better in school exams and research in Brazil concluded that people who were breastfed made more money once they reached 30. The results were adjusted to account for other factors such as household income and the parents’ level of education but they still pointed towards better brain development in children who were breastfed. Scientists have a number of theories for why this happens. The prevailing theory is that it is due to the long-chain fatty acids which are present in breast-milk. They are known to have a positive effect on brain development. Improves Sleep Some people claim that formula-fed babies sleep longer but this has been proven to be a myth. Researchers found that both formula-fed and breastfed babies are just as likely to wake up in the middle of the night. The difference is that breastfed babies go back to sleep much faster. Breastfed babies go back to sleep sooner primarily because of oxytocin. This feel-good hormone is produced when the baby breastfeeds and it helps him feel sleepy right after. Other hormones and nucleotides found in breast-milk also help to develop the baby’s circadian rhythm.
Studies have shown that breastfed babies are more likely to maintain a healthy weight even when older. The reasons are inconclusive however the prevailing theory is that a nursing mother is better at understanding her child’s signals for being full which keeps them from being overfed. The mother would be able to measure quantities with a bottle but with breastfeeding she can’t see how much the baby has been fed and must rely on instincts.
Bonding With Mom
Oxytocin is released with each nursing session. This is the love hormone which helps the baby to bond to you. A strong relationship with his mother will form the foundations for the rest of his relationships and make the baby better at coping with stress.
Easier to Digest
Formula is based on cow’s milk or soy milk. The proteins present in these milks are more difficult for the baby to digest which puts a strain on the baby’s digestive system. This may result in flatulence or diarrhea.
BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING FOR MOM
Mothers tend to make the decision based on what’s good for the baby but they often overlook the fact that breastfeeding has a number of benefits for mom as well.
Breastfeeding is an energy-intensive process. The production of breast-milk alone can burn about 500 calories every day which is why breastfeeding mothers are able to shed off the pregnancy weight at a much faster rate. This is a great way to get back to your beautiful best without having to diet.
Breastfeeding keeps mothers from ovulating. The human body is a complex machine which knows that it is not in a mother’s best interest to get pregnant while she is raising an infant. Breastfeeding keeps you from ovulating due to a phenomenon known as lactation amenorrhea which happens when a mother sticks to breastfeeding every four hours for up to six months postpartum. Going for extended periods at night without breastfeeding has been linked to the return of ovulation.
Formula tends to be expensive. Some mothers are lucky enough to have a bounty of free breast-milk coming from their bodies so it makes sense to use the free and abundant baby food that her body makes naturally. Formula has to be bought at the store and its price varies depending on the type but a mother can opt for powdered formula if she is on a budget. Ready-to-feed and concentrated formulas are more expensive while hypoallergenic formulas are especially pricey. The average cost of using basic formula for the first year of a baby’s life can be up to $1500. That’s $1500 that could go to the baby’s college fund if mom chooses to breastfeed instead. Even if she decides to buy nursing accessories such as a breast-pump, nursing pillows and nursing bras, she’ll still save more money than she would have if she used formula. And that’s not even accounting for the increased medical bills that come with sticking strictly to formula.
Helps You Bond With Your Baby
Every new mom will tell you that bonding is her favorite thing about breastfeeding. The entire nursing process is an intimate experience that she can share with her child in a way that nobody else can. She and her baby exchange noises, looks and cuddles during nursing sessions which communicate love in both directions. There is something very empowering about watching a child grow strong and happy while feeding on the bounty of your bosom.
Heals Your Body
Breastfeeding promotes the release of oxytocin in both the baby and the mother. This hormone is known to help heal your postpartum body by contracting the uterus and slowing down blood-loss after delivery. The uteri of mothers who breastfed returned to normal size after six weeks while those who did not required ten weeks.
Lowered Risk of Osteoporosis
Studies show that women who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from postmenopausal osteoporosis. This is because lactating women are able to absorb calcium at a higher rate. This means that a mother’s bones will be less dense while weaning but become much stronger six months later.
MAKING THE CHOICE
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. After that they suggest breastfeeding for another year or so while slowly introducing solid foods, formula and juices. This model may not work for everyone. Many mothers opt for a bit of both. They choose breast-milk as the primary form of feeding and then supplement with formula when necessary. You don’t have to make the decision on your own. Doctors and healthcare providers will be happy to help you find a regiment that best suits your and your baby’s needs. Just be certain that you are giving your infant one of the two because cow’s milk or other juices are definitely not an option.
Until Next Time,