The decision to breastfeed your baby (or not) is deeply personal. And if you're lucky enough to be able to make the choice, it's important that you have all the information in front of you. Here are 25 great reasons to give breastfeeding a try:
1. Increased maternal sensitivity.
Research has shown that breastfeeding mothers show greater activation of the superior frontal gyrus, insula, precuneus, striatum, and amygdala when their babies cry than non-breastfeeding moms. These areas of the brain are all related to maternal sensitivity.
2. More space between children.
Prolonged lactation helps to promote the spacing between children. And birth spacing is often a win-win situation for mom, dad, the older child, and the new baby.
3. Peace of mind.
In 2008, 53,000 formula-fed babies in China were hospitalized due to formula adulteration with a toxic substance called "melamine." Breast milk is just breast milk; you know where it comes from and what's in it.
4. Safer iron absorption.
The harmful bacteria in a baby’s gut can absorb iron from formula or iron drops, but breast milk iron has "Lactoferrin protein," which makes iron consumable only by the baby.
5. Less money (and time) in the long run.
If 90 percent of U.S. families breastfeed exclusively for six months, the United States would save more than $13 billion a year. One research study compared 1,000 never-breastfed babies to 1,000 exclusively breastfed babies and found that never-breastfed babies had 2,033 excess office visits, 212 excess days of hospitalization, and 609 excess prescriptions. You'll likely save time and money on health care costs in the long run if you choose to breastfeed.
6. More peace of mind.
A 2009 study looked at the relationship between feeding methods and the risk of sudden infant death (SID). The results showed that breastfeeding led to a 50 percent reduction in sudden infant death (SID) at all all ages through infancy.
7. Healthier weight gain and less infection.
VLBW (very low birth weight) babies must be breastfed, and human milk (either pumped or donor milk) makes any chance of infection drop markedly when compared with formula-fed VLBW babies.
8. Better mental health for mom.
The hormone prolactin—also known as the lactation hormone—is a key factor in mental health and mood regulation. It has been shown to have a relaxing effect and is associated with less anger and anxiety and more positive life events.
9. Stronger protection against environmental toxins.
Breastfeeding your baby will protect him or her against polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), which causes poor concentration and bad verbal memory. In one study, these symptoms were found in children who were not breastfed much more than breastfed kids.
10. Less development of autoimmune thyroid disease.
A study compared breastfed babies to soy-formula-fed babies and found that the prevalence of autoimmune thyroid disease was 31 percent in soy-formula versus only 12 percent in breastfed babies.
11. Protection against chest and ear infections.
The optimum protection against pneumonia (a serious chest infection) and recurrent otitis media (ear infection) occurred in babies who were fully breastfed for six months instead of four months. Those extra two months of exclusive breastfeeding seem to make a significant difference regarding these health issues.
12. Faster brain development.
In the case of low birth weight babies, don't be tricked with formula promotions. Breastfeeding is especially beneficial for neurodevelopment in children born before 36 weeks.
13. Better protection against secondhand smoke.
Research shows that a baby’s chest infection is worsened by passive smoking exposure (no surprise there). But it also shows that more than four months of breastfeeding protects babies from tobacco contamination and exposure.
14. Breastfeeding helps moms quit smoking.
If you're a smoker, you should know that maintaining breastfeeding reduces the risk of smoking relapse, playing an indirect role in smoking cessation.
15. Better sleep.
The hormone melatonin regulates the sleep cycle, and breast milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan (missing in formulas) that is essential for the manufacturing of melatonin.
16. Fewer harmful gut bacteria.
Harmful bacteria does not thrive in a breastfed baby's gut. Why? Breast milk has unique anti-adhesion properties, an amazing feature that prevents sticky pathogenic bacteria from attaching to the gut membrane.
17. Lower risk of celiac disease.
If you maintain breastfeeding beyond the first six months, your child will be less likely to develop celiac disease in early childhood.
18. More calories burned by mom.
Moms on insulin should be advised to breastfeed, simply because you burn more calories (energy) when you are producing breast milk. Blood glucose is the fuel that provides that energy, which means you will have lower insulin requirements.
19. Healthier teeth.
The natural breast is very different from a bottle and will support normal baby teeth structure.
20. Easy storage.
Breastmilk can be stored without any preservatives or additives in a deep freezer -4°F (-20°C) for up to a year. This means working or traveling moms can simply pump and store without worrying.
21. Better hydration and nutrition.
When you breastfeed, foremilk is the first milk the baby gets; it is thin and high in sugar to satisfy thirst. Hindmilk comes next; it is thicker and has a higher fat content to give your baby optimal energy. All formula milk is static and the same content from the first to last drop.
22. More soothing to the baby.
Sometimes babies seek your breast even though they aren't hungry. This is because breastfeeding promotes a sense of joy and comfort, acting as a clean and natural pacifier.
23. More mom-baby bonding.
Breastfeeding encourages early mother-baby contact and can help prevent infant abandonment.
24. Lower risk of cancer.
The high rate of breastfeeding in India may explain the low percentage of childhood cancer in India (only six cases per 100,000 children).
Want to learn more about supporting the health of your newborn? Here's how to lay a strong foundation for their microbiome.