Breastfeeding is good for you and your baby. It hasn’t always been en vogue, though. While years of research have proven the many benefits of breast milk, when I was an infant, it was more prestigious to feed your baby formula in a bottle. In 1965, being able to purchase formula meant you were in a higher income bracket, as my mom used to tell me, “the only women who breastfed were hippies, or who couldn’t afford formula.” Interesting how society changes.
These days, if you don’t breastfeed, you are looked down upon (I know this, because I was unable to breastfeed, and I got all sorts of sideways looks, and pointed questions about why I wasn’t giving my babies the benefits of breastfeeding...more on that in my next blog.)
Here are just some of the medically proven benefits of breastfeeding, for both you and your baby:
- Increased IQ. Research has shown that babies who are breastfed have, on average, a score 7 points higher than non-breast fed babies.
- Helps you loose the baby weight. Your body anticipates that you will be breast-feeding: it is the natural way human babies stay alive. So, to make sure you have enough calories stored to feed your baby, your body packs on extra fat. Breastfeeding releases hormones that help your body tap into those fat stores and turn them into breast milk. (Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories per day!)
- Until about six months of age, a baby’s immune system is almost non-existent, and a child’s immune system isn’t fully developed until about 5 or 6 years of age. Breast milk contains the antibodies that help the mother fight off germs, and those antibodies pass through the breast milk and help boost the immune system of the infant.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance your baby will die of SIDS. Doctors and researchers do not know what causes SIDS, but they do know that breast fed infants are less likely to die of this tragic syndrome.
- Your body releases other hormones while nursing. One is called oxytocin, and it aids your uterus in healing, and contracting back to its normal size.
- Babies who are breastfed also have a lower instance of allergies throughout their lives.
- Formula fed babies have a higher instance of Type I diabetes. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time a baby is breast-fed and the instance of Type I diabetes. The longer the baby is breast-fed, the lower the percentage of diabetes.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chances that a mother who has given birth will have breast, cervical, or uterine cancer later in her life.
So as difficult as it will seem, at 4AM, when your boob is the only thing that will quiet your infant, and you have to get up, AGAIN: remember that it is doing you both good!