Breast Is Best…For Mommies AND Babies

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Breastfeeding has wonderful benefits for you as well as your baby

As well as the proven health benefits your baby can gain from breastfeeding, many mothers feel fulfillment and great joy from the physical and emotional bond they experience with their child while nursing. And yet, beyond the emotional satisfaction of breastfeeding, there are many important health benefits too, for you and your baby.

How you benefit from breastfeeding

As well as significantly helping your baby, breastfeeding benefits you too in significant ways:

1. A natural weight-loss system
Breastfeeding actually helps you lose your baby weight! When your infant sucks on your breast, this triggers the release of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone that also spurs the shrinking of your uterus and reduces postpartum bleeding. Even though you’ll be adding more calories to your diet to make milk, these won’t translate into extra pounds (unless you eat more calories than you need).

2. Anti-cancer properties
Breastfeeding reduces your risk of uterine, ovarian and breast cancer, as well as bone loss after menopause.

3. Disease prevention
Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

4. Delays menses
Exclusive breastfeeding delays the return of your menstrual period, which can help extend the time between pregnancies. Note: Breastfeeding is not a foolproof method of contraception and should not be used as your sole form of birth control.

5. Feedings are easy and convenient
When you breastfeed, your baby’s milk supply is always ready and waiting, the right temperature and free! You don’t need to buy formula or a bottle warmer, or be constantly sterilizing baby bottles.

How your baby benefits from breastfeeding

1. Boosts immunity and prevents illnesses
It’s a proven fact that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from ear infections, asthma, allergies, childhood cancers, respiratory tract infections, GI illnesses and other common childhood ailments, in large part because their immune system is strengthened by antibodies and other immune-boosting factors passed on through their mothers’ milk. Colostrum, the protein-rich, low-fat “pre-milk” produced by your breasts before your real milk comes in, is particularly rich in these antibodies and is very important for your baby in those first few days of life.

2. Decreases the likelihood of childhood obesity, now and later on
Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese as children.

3. Chance for mommy and baby to bond
There are few experiences in life that match the close emotional connection that comes from breastfeeding. No matter how close your child becomes with dad, there’s something wondrously special about skin-on-skin contact with your baby.

4. Fewer allergies and skin rashes
Studies have shown that breastfeeding significantly contributes to a decreased incidence of allergies and eczema.

5. Strong jaws, healthy teeth, fewer braces
Because breastfed babies have to work extra hard for their meals, they build stronger jaws, have better-developed teeth and palates, and experience fewer cavities later in life. They also have better jaw alignment and are less likely to need orthodontic work (braces) as they get older.

6. More adventurous taste buds
Since breast milk takes on the flavor of whatever you’re eating, your baby early on develops an acceptance of a wide range of tastes and flavors.

7. Crucial cognitive and emotional development
All those hours and hours of close bodily contact while breastfeeding do more than fill your baby’s tummy — in addition to making him/her feel nurtured and safe, that close contact with you builds a strong emotional foundation for self-confidence throughout life.

Busy schedule making it hard to breastfeed? You can pump!

The ability to pump milk has revolutionized breastfeeding for the mother whose lifestyle requires prolonged separation from her baby. (Walking around with “the little black bag” hunting for an electric outlet and a sink are hallmarks of a committed pumper.) The healthy yet time-consuming process can be daunting for the beginner, so here are some tips:

  • Many insurance companies cover the cost of breast pump purchases
  • Ideally, you should pump every 2-4 hours when separated from your infant
  • It takes the typical first-time mother about 20 minutes to empty her breasts. Pumping time usually decreases with each month of expressing milk
  • After each successive pregnancy, pumping time should also decrease
  • Breast milk may be stored in bottles or bags.
  • Breast milk may be refrigerated for 3 days and frozen for 3 months (in a deep freezer, it can be frozen for 6 months). Freeze your milk in small volumes to avoid waste and label with the date.
  • Hands-free bras are available to allow multi-tasking while pumping
  • Car electrical adapters make it possible to pump in a car
  • Battery adapters are available for international travel

Additional benefits of breastfeeding

  • Breast milk is much less expensive than formula. Formula can cost between $4 and $10 per day, depending upon the brand, type (powdered versus liquid) and amount consumed.
  • At night, putting your baby to your breast is much simpler and faster than getting up to prepare or warm a bottle of formula.
  • Breastfeeding allows you to gather up your baby and go — around town or on longer trips — without having to carry a bag full of feeding equipment.
  • Breastfeeding is also good for the environment, since there are no bottles to wash or formula cans/bottles to throw away.

More information on breastfeeding

You might also find these pages helpful on our Westchester Health Pediatrics website:

Nature’s perfect food, your breast milk benefits your growing newborn and you, the mommy. So breastfeed — it really matters!

By Erin Kathleen Kelleher, MD, FAAP, IBCLE, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.   

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About the Author: ML Ball