The Benefits of Breastfeeding: Mom and Baby

My decision to breastfeed my daughter has been constantly questioned. I have been told that formula is easier and more convenient, asked if I am not ashamed for exposing my body and feeding my daughter in public places, told that my breast milk won’t keep her full, and that formula fed babies are happier and healthy. Honestly, I want to tell all of those people to shove it and mind their business. Instead, I politely nod my head and change the conversation. I may not know everything, but I’m assuming these individuals do not understand or know the benefits that breastfeeding has for mom and baby.

The benefits of breastfeeding begin after giving birth. Breastfeeding aids in the healing process of mothers postpartum, it releases two hormones called oxytocin and prolactin. Oxytocin helps your uterus quickly return to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces bleeding, and prolactin helps relax mom post-birth and makes her feel more nurturing towards baby.

Nursing moms can burn up to 300-500 extra calories a day by producing breast milk, it changes our eating habits which can also aid in postpartum weight loss, it has also been known to lower our risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and postmenopausal osteoporosis. Furthermore, if mom is EBF (exclusively breastfeeding) it acts a form of birth control! As long as baby is EBF, fed on cue (morning and night), sleeps with you, uses your breasts as a pacifier, bottles and pacifiers are avoided at all costs, baby is under six months, and moms period hasn’t returned, this method is 98-99.5% effective. This is also called Ecological Breastfeeding.

Now to tackle the conversation of formula being easier, more convenient, and beneficial for baby. If and when someone says this to me, I assume they don’t understand or fully know the benefits of breastfeeding.

Babies can consume up to 6 cans of formula in a month! On average, if baby hasn’t started solids yet, that’s about one can a week and then some. Your basic big-box store sells one 12oz can for twenty dollars, that’s a lot of money spent on formula in a month! Not to mention the cost of diapers, wipes, and other essentials for baby.

Personally, I don’t think anything is easier or more convenient than being able to lift, or unbutton my blouse and feed my daughter. I can always feed her on-the-go, anytime and anywhere without ever worrying about mixing formula or milk spoiling.

Oh the benefits of breast milk for baby is endless! One of the coolest things about breastmilk is that it’s adjustable, what does that mean? It means that your milk will always adjust and adapt to suit your babies needs. When baby nurses their saliva enters the mammary glands, and if the glands sense anything off or odd about baby’s saliva, they will change the composition of your milk to help baby fight off and virus, infection, or any other health problem they might be battling. How great is that?! Breastmilk also boosts babies immune system and helps protect them against infections, it dramatically reduces the chances of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and ensures that baby has a healthy digestive system.

Have you heard of colostrum? It’s the first milk that comes in after baby is born. Colostrum is yellow, thick and sticky. This milk has a low-fat content but is high in carbs, protein, and antibodies. These substances help aid our baby’s growth and keep them healthy. Colostrum also aids in digestion, its like a laxative if you will. If you’re a mom you understand how important it is that our babies poop often within the first few days of life. Pooping helps get rid of excess bilirubin and prevent jaundice. Colostrum is basically a natural vaccine. This milk usually lasts for a few days until mom’s milk supply comes in. The female body knows when to adjust to baby’s next stage of life. 

Breastmilk comes in after colostrum, it’s otherwise known as mature milk. Mature milk contains antibodies that store bought formula doesn’t, these antibodies help fight off viruses and bacteria. For example: if I have the flu my body will create more white blood cells than I need, and those extra white blood cells will then be passed on to baby via my breast milk. These extra cells will prevent my daughter from getting sick. Researchers have also discovered that babies who are breastfed have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula fed ones.

Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six weeks of life have a lowered risk of asthma, allergies and any other type of respiratory illnesses, fewer infections such as ear infections and fewer chronic conditions such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. Her little tummy will also have an easier time digesting my milk (because it isn’t man made). Therefore, breastfed babies are often less likely to constipated, gassy or have diarrhea. It’s also been shown to reduce SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) within babies first year of life. 

I made the decision to breastfeed my daughters because I feel that it is the best option for them. However, I will not judge another mom on how they choose to feed their child. I have a hard time feeding my daughter in public because of the stigma behind breastfeeding but I have been getting better at it. It’s strange how something as natural as providing food for my child is considered offensive, disgusting, and shameful. Breastfeeding needs to be normalized and us moms need to unite and make that happen, but that’s a topic for another day. I enjoy the bonding time I have with my little when I breastfeed and I enjoy it even more that my body can provide such amazing nourishment for her. I’m proud to breastfeed.

Before I end this post I want to acknowledge the moms out there who are unable to breastfeed (even though they wanted to), and the ones who are supplementing with formula. Sometimes there are medical issues that keep mothers from being able to nourish their children from their own bodies, things happen that we can’t explain, and our milk never comes in. But you know what mama? It’s nothing to be ashamed or beat yourself up about. Like the saying goes, “fed is best” and although I chose to breastfeed my daughters and other moms did too, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with moms who chose formula or that they are incorrect in doing so.

This post was written to educate someone who wants to know why a mom would choose to breastfeed their child, it is only meant to inform individuals what the benefits of breastfeeding are. We should never judge a mother by how she chooses to feed her child, whether it’s breastfeeding, supplementing, pumping, or formula fed. Always remember, “fed is best” and to be kind.

Feel free to read: Breastfeeding: A How-To to aid you in your breastfeeding journey.

Love,

A breastfeeding mama

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