In 2017 I'd say that most are aware of many benefits of breastfeeding. For starters, it's convenient, breast milk is filled with nutrients specifically designed to help your baby grow, and it can lower the risk of respiratory infections. Of course, not all mothers nurse, and that's OK. It doesn't matter if you were unable and/or just didn't want to breastfeed, either. After all, formula is a suitable, safe, and healthy alternative. But there are a few benefits of breastfeeding that no one talks about that truly highlight how magical breast milk can be. Those benefits don't downplay the importance of formula, or how it has literally saved millions of babies' lives, but it does spotlight the unique positives of breastfeeding that all moms should be made aware of before they decide how they'll feed their child.
Dr. Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and the author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, tells Fit Pregnancy that breastfeeding contributes to a healthier baby because "incidences of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced." And while the aforementioned is among one of the more obvious benefits of breastfeeding, Dr. Lawrence goes on to add that breastfeeding leads to a lower risk of the mother being exposed to postmenopausal osteoporosis because lactation aids in a the woman's body and "absorbs calcium much more efficiently."
So not only is breastfeeding good for the baby, but it's great for the mother doing all that "feeding another human being with her body" stuff, too. So with that in mind, and because staying as informed as possible should always be the name of the parenting game, here are some other great benefits of nursing that aren't discussed as often as they should be:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby's life, citing a benefit to following the aforementioned recommendation is sudden infant death (SIDS) prevention. And a new study in Pediatrics suggests that breastfeeding (even non-exclusively) for the first two months of your baby's life drastically reduces the risk of SIDS.
So even if you decide to supplement with formula as soon as your baby is born, or move away from breastfeeding a few months later, sticking with breastfeeding for even two months can potentially safeguard your baby from SIDS.
According to a study published in Pediatrics, breastfeeding results in fewer ear infections. This, of course, all goes back to mother's milk providing the necessary antibodies and nutrients to keep baby healthy.
Smoking isn't as common as it was years ago, but according to the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, if you and your baby are around cigarette smoke, your breastmilk actually helps protect them from developing bronchial issues or asthma.
Breast milk plays a role in ensuring your baby doesn't become constipated. Compared to those who move to cows milk, breast milk is better for baby's delicate gastrointestinal system.
Some babies have difficulty digesting formula, or there may be underlying gastric issues that can result in acid reflux. According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, breastfeeding reduces any acidic episodes.
It's not guaranteed your baby will be smarter, but higher IQ scores and testing scores have shown in those babies who were breastfed exclusively. According to a long-term study published in Lancet, nursing exclusively has been shown to be associated with an increase in intelligence. And according to CNN, prior studies have shown an increase "of up to 7.5 IQ points in elementary age children who breastfed, as well as an increase in verbal, performance, and comprehensive IQs in adults."
According to a study published in BMJ Journals, breastfeeding exclusively could help lower the risk of allergies in infants. The result of the study found that children who were exclusively breastfed for four months or more exhibited less asthma and less suspected allergic rhinitis by 2 years of age.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding mothers recover from childbirth easily and more quickly. The AAP's site, Healthy Children, explains, writing that, "the hormone oxytocin acts to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding." The same hormone contributes to those feelings of love and attachment you experience when you hold your baby, too.
Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author of over 30 parenting books, says breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risks by 25 percent, and because estrogen is lower during breastfeeding and lactation, your risk for developing ovarian and uterine cancers decrease, too.
Not only is breast milk convenient, great for both baby and mom, and relatively inexpensive, but it's also environmentally friendly. The World Alliance of Breast Feeding Action states baby formula packaging "wastes resources such as tin, paper and plastic." The packaging is generally not recycled, either, further adding to our planet's ever-growing waste.
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