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The decision to breastfeed or not, is largely influenced by a woman's individual circumstances - what sort of support she has, how soon she has to return to work and how she personally feels about it. There is no right or wrong answer; you can only choose what is best for you and your baby. To help with this decision we have listed the main benefits of breastfeeding below. For a complete overview, you will also find it useful to read about the disadvantages of breastfeeding. Knowledge is power. Most authorities agree that breastfeeding is the ideal form of nourishment for infants and since 1997 the American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending that mothers breastfeed for a minimum of one year (the first 6 months with breast milk only with the option to introduce solids in the next 6 months). It seems most of the benefits of breastfeeding are retained even past the first year.
8 Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Babies
1. Early breast milk is super food
Colostrum (also known as liquid gold) is a thick yellowish early kind of breast milk that the mother's body produces in pregnancy and just after childbirth. This liquid is particularly rich in antibodies and nutrients and give natural immunity to most childhood infections as well as decreases the risk of allergic reactions. Formula-fed babies for example are much more likely to develop ear infections and diarrhea. They are also more prone to asthma, atopic dermatitis (skin rash), type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia and bacterial meningitis. By day 5 after childbirth, colostrum changes into mature milk which contains just the right amount of sugar, water, fat and protein that the baby needs to grow.
2. Breast milk is easier to digest
Breast milk is easier to digest that formula feed. The proteins in formula food are derived from cow's milk and it takes the baby's stomach longer to digest them.
3. Reduces risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Studies show that nursing infants appears to reduce their risk of SIDS.
4. Reduces risk of obesity
Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese because overfeeding is more likely with bottle-feeding.
5. Better mouth and tooth development
Nursing babies seem to experience better mouth and tooth formation.
6. Improves development in pre-term babies
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discovered in one study that extremely low birth weight premature infants (weighing less than 2.2 pounds at birth) who received breast milk shortly after birth had better mental development by 30 months, than babies who were fed formula. The scientists concluded that all premature babies in intensive care units should routinely be give breast milk. About 1 percent of births in the U.S. fall into this category every year (40,000 babies).
7. Facilitates bonding
Breastfeeding provides psychological benefits for both mom and baby. It creates emotional bonds - in poorer countries for example, it has been known to reduce rates of infant abandonment. That said, few experts would dispute that babies who are bottle-fed are just as capable of bonding with their mothers if held close and cuddled during feedings.
8. Breast milk is naturally sterilized
Human milk straight from the breast is always sterile (as well as warm and fresh). In comparison, bottles and artificial nipples always need to be sterilized and warmed up.
8 Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Mothers
1. Promotes internal healing
After delivery the suckling action of a baby stimulates the mother's pituitary gland to produce hormones that cause the womb (uterus) to contract back to normal size. Breastfeeding also helps lessen the risk of postpartum bleeding (severe bleeding after childbirth).
2. Easier to lose weight
Women who breastfeed find it easier to lose their baby-weight. Most of the baby weight is fat which is laid down and stored during pregnancy in preparation for breastfeeding. Nursing helps to use up that fat supply faster.
3. Some ways it makes life easier
While breastfeeding can be restrictive - in that you can't stray too far from your baby and it can intially be more of a hassle than formula feeling - it can make life easier when learn how to breastfeed and settle into a routine. When you breastfeed you don't need to sterilize nipples and bottles. You don't have to buy formula milk, measure, mix and warm it (the benefits of which may be particularly apparent in the middle of the night!).
4. Reduces risk of breast cancer
One study reported that women who breastfeed for as little as 4 to 6 months over a lifetime (that is not necessarily all together with one baby) reduced their breast cancer risk factor by 20 percent. Women who nursed for at least 6 months before the age of 20 showed the greatest benefits (up to 50 percent). Other studies however indicate that the risk is confined only to premenopausal years and that it equals out after menopause.
5. Other health benefits
Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of maternal health problems including:
• Type 2 diabetes
• Ovarian cancer
• Endometrial cancer
• Anemia (read about anemia in pregnancy and the risks postpartum).
Note: Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that the risk of postpartum depression is reduced by breastfeeding.
6. Cheaper than bottle feeding
Breastfeeding costs less money. Formula and feeding supplies cost on average $1,500 every year, depending on how much the baby eats. As breastfed babies tend to be less sick, you will also lower your healthcare costs and miss fewer work days.
7. Feels good
Many women enjoy the closeness and physical contact that comes with nursing. It requires a mother to take time out, to find a quiet location and relax. The skin to skin contact boosts oxytocin levels - the hormones that help milk flow and induce a state of calmness in the mother.
8. Environmentally friendly
Breastfeeding does not produce waste or create pollution. Breast milk is a naturally-renewable resource that does not require packaging, shipping or disposal.
Breastfeeding Benefits For Society
1. Recent studies show that if 90 percent of women breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 fewer babies would die every year.
2. In U.S. government would save $13 billion year. This is because the medical costs for fully breastfed infants are lower than for never-breastfed infants. Bottle fed babies require more doctor visits, prescriptions and hospitalization.
3. Breastfeeding mothers miss less work days to care for sick babies than bottle-feeding mothers. This increases their contribution in the workforce and reduces employer medical costs.