If you're on the fence about breastfeeding or just totally over it, I get it. Breastfeeding isn't always easy and I think every breastfeeding mother has a moment where she feels 100 percent done and wishes she could just give it up. But there are some scientific facts that will help you see the good side of breastfeeding and remind you why you're doing it for you and your little one.
Let's be honest, there aren't just scientific reasons that make breastfeeding worthwhile. The ease of pulling your boob out instead of prepping a bottle is a major benefit, as is never having to measure out formula, water, or make sure your baby's milk is at the right temperature. But even those benefits don't seem worth it when your breasts are engorged, when your baby is sleeping through the night yet you still have to get up at 3 a.m. to pump, and when you can't enjoy more than a couple of beers on a Saturday night. Sometimes, you need science to make it even clearer why you chose to breastfeed and why it's worth it.
Trust me, I've been there. My daughter took to breastfeeding like a champ, I managed to pump way more milk than she ever needed, and we never had any issues. But I still needed to remind myself of these 13 scientific facts so I could see the good side of breastfeeding. How you nourish your baby is always your choice and, no matter what, you're making the right one, but if you need a little encouragement to keep chugging along at breastfeeding, here are some facts that will put it all in perspective for you.
1. It Helps Your Baby's Immune System
Like, a lot. You've probably heard that breast milk is healthy for babies, but do you know the extent of its benefits? According to the website for the Office of Women's Health, research has proven that breastfed babies have a lower risk of asthma, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea, vomiting, lower respiratory infections, and type 2 diabetes. The American Pregnancy Association also notes that all of the antibodies your body has developed against illnesses are passed to your baby through your breast milk, and breast milk also makes a protective coating inside your baby's stomach to stop germs from hanging around.
2. Breast Milk Is The Perfect Blend Of Nutrients For Your Baby
You probably thought your body was pretty amazing through pregnancy and childbirth, but wait until you start breastfeeding. According to the American Pregnancy Association, your breast milk is the absolute perfect blend of nutrients, fat, and protein needed for your baby, and it will adapt as your baby's needs change and grow.
3. It Lowers Your Risk Of Certain Cancers
Yup, turns out that breastfeeding offers you benefits, too. The Office on Women's Health notes that breastfeeding can help prevent ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research also notes that the risk is lowered for both pre and post-menopausal breast cancer.
4. It Lowers Your Child's Risk Of Diseases
Not only does breastfeeding amp up your kid's immune system, but it also has specific benefits to certain diseases. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that breastfeeding could protect your child against celiac disease. Another study in the same journal also found a correlation between breastfed babies and a lowered risk of developing Chron disease and ulcerative colitis.
5. It Can Lower Your Child's Chances Of Developing Allergies
Many moms think they have to restrict their diet while breastfeeding to make sure their child doesn't develop any allergies, but the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology notes that because breast milk has plenty of immune-boosting nutrients, it's already helping prevent your child from developing allergies.
6. It Can Reduce Your Baby's Risk Of SIDS
Sudden infant death syndrome is a terrifying thought, so any way to prevent it is worth it, right? Well breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS in a big way. A German study found that breastfeeding your child reduces their risk of SIDS by 50 percent, and that it is best to breastfeed until your child is at least six months old.
7. It Can Reduce Your Risk Of PPD
A study found that women who breastfed their children reduced their risk of developing postpartum depression, which is a major win, especially since anyone going through PPD might find it difficult to breastfeed their child.
8. It Reduces Postpartum Blood Loss
The aftermath of delivery, no matter what kind of birth you had, can be extreme, but breastfeeding can help. According to the American Pregnancy Association, mothers who breastfeed tend to heal faster with their uterus returning to normal and their postpartum blood loss decreasing.
9. It Can Reduce Your Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes If You Had Gestational Diabetes
The National Institutes of Health notes that five to nine percent of women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, which can increase their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. However, research has found that mothers who breastfeed their children can lower that risk for up to two years after childbirth.
10. It Gives You Better Bone Density
No, really. You just thought breastfeeding was amazing. Research has found that while your body's lactation can trigger bone loss in certain areas, such as your hips and wrists, the bones are completely rebuilt and replaced within two years of delivery for moms who breastfeed. In fact, moms who choose to breastfeed their children for nine months or less were found to have three percent more bone than right after delivery.
11. It Gives Your Baby A Higher Pain Tolerance
If you've ever breastfed your baby during their shots and noticed they seemed to calm down, you might already have a feeling about this major benefit. La Leche League International notes that a McGill University study found that crying was reduced by 91 percent while breastfeeding during blood draws.
12. It Can Reduce Your Child's Risk Of Leukemia
Just keeps getting better, right? According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the risk of leukemia was reduced by 21 percent in babies breastfed for only one month and babies that were breastfed for six months or longer had a decreased risk of 30 percent.
13. It Helps Your Child's Cognitive Development
You've probably heard it before, but there is plenty of scientific proof that breastfeeding can increase your child's cognitive development. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that there are significantly higher levels of cognitive function in breastfed children between the ages of 6 and 23 months than in formula-fed babies of the same ages. The difference in levels seems to be stable across all increasing ages and the duration of breastfeeding also makes a difference.