Breastfeeding could save new families up to $3,900 a year in formula alone! Meanwhile, breastfed infants need fewer trips to the doctor and enjoy decreased risk of many long-term health conditions. That translates into fewer trips to the doctor over a lifetime. But the baby isn’t the only one who stays healthier thanks to breastfeeding—so does Mom. Breastfeeding has advantages for both mother and baby.
Benefits for Mothers
Although being the sole provider for your baby’s nutritional needs can certainly be stressful, breastfeeding offers new mothers significant health benefits. Some of these extend far beyond the postpartum phase.
- Mothers who breastfeed tend to lose their baby weight more quickly, since milk production burns so many calories.
- Breastfeeding reduces the time it takes for the uterus to return to pre-pregnancy size, and it reduces postpartum bleeding.
- Breastfeeding has been linked to lowered risk of developing Type II diabetes, although experts haven’t identified the exact causes of that mechanism.
- Mothers who breastfeed enjoy decreased risk of pre-menopausal breast and ovarian cancers.
- Since feeding time promotes mother-baby bonding, mothers who breastfeed have lowered incidence of postpartum depression and increased self-confidence.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is the peace of mind that comes with breastfeeding; it’s the healthiest choice for a new baby, so mothers know that they are supporting their baby’s growth and development.
Benefits for Babies
Breast milk is filled with antibodies and nutrients that are tailored precisely for a baby’s needs. Over time its composition changes, so it always provides the optimal balance of protein, fats, sugars, and water. From the first few days, when the mother produces special milk called colostrum, up through the time a mother weans her child, breast milk offers health benefits that affect a child for a lifetime.
- Because breast milk is easier for babies to digest, breastfed babies have lower incidence of gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea and stomach viruses.
- The added boost to their immune system means that babies who are breastfed have less ear infections, respiratory infections, and other minor illnesses.
- The unique composition of breast milk promotes healthy brain development; some studies have even shown a link between breastfeeding and increased IQ.
- Premature babies who are breastfed have fewer complications and re-hospitalizations, compared to premature babies who are bottle-fed.
- Over time, breastfed children have lowered risk of both Type I and Type II diabetes, along with lowered incidence of asthma and obesity.
- Baby also benefits from the increased bonding time with mom, feeling more secure and attached.
How long should mothers breastfeed? To enjoy most of these benefits, mothers must breastfeed for at least three months. However, the US Surgeon General recommends breastfeeding for at least six months, when the baby usually starts eating some solid foods. Yet solid foods lack many of the nutritional elements of breast milk, so it’s advisable to continue for the first year.
If you have questions about breastfeeding or other maternity health issues, please contact us at Central Florida Regional Hospital. We offer classes to expectant mothers who register to deliver at our Baby Suites. Visit us online, or call Consult-a-Nurse® at 1-800-445-3392 to find out about our prenatal education programs, get answers to your health questions, or get a free physician referral.