Many mothers choose to breastfeed their infants, and there are many benefits to choosing this route. While alternatives to breastfeeding certainly exist and are in some cases necessary for babies with milk allergies and other medical concerns, the benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable. If you are expecting a baby in the near future or recently gave birth, consider the benefits of choosing to breastfeed.
A Healthier Future
Studies from the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that breastfed babies are less susceptible to many medical complications later in life, including:
- Childhood leukemia
- Ear infections
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Respiratory infections
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Type 2 diabetes
By breastfeeding your child, you limit the risk that he or she will develop these conditions in the future. Mothers also enjoy health benefits from breastfeeding. The Office on Women’s Health studies also indicate that mothers who choose to breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the act of breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, the “happiness” hormone, and helps forge stronger emotional bonds between mothers and their babies.
Mothers’ milk is extremely rich in nutrients and changes as their babies grow. Immediately after birth and for the next few days, a new mother’s milk is thicker and has a deep yellow color. This is colostrum and it contains all of the essential nutrients and antibodies babies need for a healthy start. While alternatives to breastmilk can offer adequate nutrition for infants, breastmilk adapts to both mother and baby to provide more enriching nutrients.
More Practical Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has tremendous medical value to mothers and their infants, but it also has several other valuable benefits as well. Opting for formula is an expensive choice, as baby formula is relatively high-priced and can cost nearly $5,000 per year. Breastmilk is free and available whenever necessary. Mothers who choose to breastfeed also often experience a “break” in their ovulation and menstruation cycles after giving birth due to the hormones produced by breastfeeding. Mothers who opt for this route can enjoy a break from their menstrual cycles lasting up to six months or more.
Choosing to breastfeed is a personal decision, and many mothers may not have the option due to medical issues, babies with milk sensitivities, or other factors. However, if breastfeeding is an available option for you, it’s vital to investigate the benefits it can have for both you and your child.