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Breastfeeding is a remarkable journey that goes beyond nourishing a baby; it nurtures a strong bond between mother and child while offering a myriad of incredible benefits. Breastfeeding holds a vital place in the lives of both us mamas and our babies, and includes major health advantages as well as emotional connections that extend far into the future.
As we explore the top ten extraordinary benefits of breastfeeding, you’ll find some you knew and some that might surprise you! As we shed light on the profound impact breastfeeding has on the well-being and development of moms and babies, we hope to leave you in awe and appreciation of the remarkable power of nature's perfect sustenance.
The first six focus on the benefits to your new baby, but don’t miss those last four that specifically refer to you mama, and how breastfeeding can improve your health during your motherhood journey:
1. Provides key ingredients to your baby for healthy development
Mom’s first milk is known as colostrum, and is rich in protein, low in sugar and packed with protective antibodies and growth factors. This milk is especially important because it's designed to encourage a baby’s digestive tract to develop, supporting their ability to deal with bacterial and viral infections. Colostrum is loaded with maternal antibodies, as well as immunoglobulin A (IgA) - the latter being an important component of the immune system, that forms a defensive layer throughout a baby’s respiratory and digestive tracts.
2. Contains optimum nutrients for a growing baby:
Supplying almost everything a baby needs for the first six months of life, breast milk is rich in protein, vitamins, fats and sugars. Adapting as a baby grows, breast milk accommodates their changing nutritional needs. That said, there’s one nutrient which may be lower than needed – vitamin D. Remember to discuss this with your doctor and supplement as necessary.
3. Supplies pre- and probiotics to your baby:
Breast milk contains beneficial bacteria called probiotics, as well as the fuel these bacteria need to thrive, known as prebiotics. Both probiotics and prebiotics help establish a healthy gut. Our knowledge in this area is expanding and it’s becoming clear that a healthy gut plays an important role in our long-term health. Studies suggest populating the gut with probiotic bacteria at this early stage in life may help reduce the incidence of atopic conditions, including asthma.
4. May help protect your baby from diseases:
Breastfeeding may help to minimize a baby’s risk of a number of illnesses, including celiac disease and atopic eczema, as well as ear infections, gastroenteritis, sudden infant death syndrome (“SIDS”) and childhood leukemia. What’s more, longer-term breastfeeding may protect your child as they grow into adulthood from diseases such as type 1 diabetes and heart disease.
5. Helps prevent childhood obesity:
Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight gain and helps to prevent childhood obesity. Experts believe this may be because of the way breastfeeding influences a healthy gut flora. The longer a mom waits to wean, the better these benefits become, as well. The food you eat while breastfeeding may also influence your baby’s taste preferences during weaning and beyond. Moms making healthier choices may be laying the foundations for a healthier future for their baby.
6. May boost your baby’s brain power:
Breastfeeding may even contribute to a baby’s brain development, especially if a baby is pre-term. Studies suggest that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and may be less likely to develop behavioral and learning disabilities.
7. Helps with mama’s weight management:
In the first three months after the birth of your baby, your energy needs and appetite will increase. For some women this means your fat storage will increase to accommodate milk production. However, after these initial months, many women lose weight as fat burning starts to increase.
8. Improves your postpartum recovery:
9. May reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases for future you:
Breastfeeding may lower the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and a number of other illnesses. Breastfeeding for more than a year during a woman’s reproductive lifetime, is linked to a 28% lower risk of both breast and ovarian cancers. Women who breastfeed may also benefit from a lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
10. May help beat the blues as a new mom:
Studies suggest that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of postpartum depression. This condition affects up to 20% of new mothers. Although experts aren’t entirely sure why that is, one explanation is that breastfeeding promotes the release of oxytocin, a hormone which promotes relaxation, is stress-busting and supports a positive mood.
The journey of breastfeeding is not only a natural wonder but also a testament to the profound miracle of motherhood. As mamas, we have everything inside us needed to provide our babies (and also ourselves) with an irreplaceable source of nutrition, immunity, and emotional connection. As we acknowledge the struggles surrounding breastfeeding, we also celebrate its remarkable power. Embracing the legacy of breastfeeding ensures a healthier and brighter future for generations to come..* A portion of this article was originally found at BBC Goodfood