The Benefits of Breastfeeding

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and therefore a natural time to extol the benefits of a practice that began with the first mother-baby combination. Breastfeeding is an inflammatory topic in many circles similar to the debates that rage between career and stay-at-home mothers. Breastfeeding, while important, is simply one decision to be made while raising a child. Is it an important decision? Yes. Is it beneficial to the baby and the mother? Absolutely. Will it assure your child a scholarship to Harvard, a problem-free life, a million dollar retirement fund? No, no, and no.

The benefits of breastfeeding are incredible and that is mainly due to the nature of breast milk. There is no laboratory in the world that is capable of exactly reproducing the amounts, types, values, and balances of the nutrients of breast milk. Breast milk contains white blood cells, known for their disease fighting abilities. There is the highest concentration of these in colostrum, the first milk your body produces, but they remain throughout the time you are breastfeeding. This helps to supplement baby’s immune system until it is developed enough to take care of itself meaning fewer doctor visits due to a sick baby. This first reason is something that cannot be replicated in even the best brand of infant formula.

A similar benefit of breastfeeding is that human milk, breast milk, is designed for human babies and their special growth needs. This is duplicated throughout nature. Cow’s milk is designed for the growth needs of cows, whale’s milk is designed for the growth needs of a baby whale. Each animal is specially equipped to produce milk that will provide the most benefit to their young. Breast milk is what nature has given you because it can grow a healthy baby better than any substitute. Each time your baby nurses he receives the proper amount of nutrients, fats, and proteins as determined by the company who has been feeding babies for millions of years: Mother Nature.

Now, there is a learning curve that most mothers will experience as they attempt breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is nature’s way for you to feed your baby, but neither your baby nor your breasts come with instructions. This is where lactation consultants come in handy. A lactation consultant will be able to show you different positions for you to nurse in (including laying down so you can breastfeed and sleep simultaneously), how to get your baby to properly latch on, and troubleshoot any additional problems that you may have. A lactation consultant can also recommend and help you pick out the supplies needed to breastfeed your baby, or pump your milk, find a La Leche League meeting, and provide emotional support as you adjust to life with a newborn.

Ask any mother who has breastfed one baby and bottle-fed another and she will, in most instances, tell you that breastfeeding is more convenient. A breastfeeding mother can carry a small diaper bag due to having all her necessary equipment on her person. When a baby fusses to be fed a nursing mother simply needs a place to sit down without worry about having formula, water, bottles, or anything of that nature. This includes nighttime feeding when many mothers claim to sleep nearly the whole night through as they bring their infant to their bed when he needs to eat, and then simply put him back in his crib or bassinet when finished. There is no stumbling to the kitchen or even needing to stay awake as your baby nurses. Beyond simply being more convenient another benefit of breastfeeding to the mother is the extra calories burned simply by providing food for your baby from your body. There are also studies that show reduced risk of breast cancer for the mother, lower risks of obesity for the child and numerous other health benefits for mother and baby.

These are just a few of the top-rated benefits of breastfeeding. There are certainly more than this and these can certainly be discussed in more detail. There are also additional issues related to breastfeeding such as nursing in public, the benefits of breastfeeding as they apply on a societal level, and breastfeeding when returning to work. However, I hope this article this was able to explain some of the benefits of breastfeeding for an infant.

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