With more than half of women in the United States choosing to breastfeed today (as opposed to twenty-five percent in the 60s), it’s clear that most women today know about breastfeeding benefits.
When asked why they chose to breastfeed their baby, most mothers would mention the health benefits as well as the special closeness they share with their baby. What many do not know is that there are many benefits not only for the baby and the mother but also for the whole family and society.
How breastfeeding benefits the baby
Human milk is biologically specific to human babies. Simply put, this means that each species of mammal makes milk that is uniquely adapted to its young. Cow’s milk is rich in protein and minerals because the calves are on their feet and run only hours after birth – the rapid growth of muscles and bones is necessary for their survival. By comparison, the human organ of survival is the brain.
Human milk is rich in factors that support brain growth. This means that children who are breastfed tend to have higher scores on intelligence tests due to the beneficial effects of human milk on the development of the nervous system.
Human milk contains enzymes, hormones ,and immunoglobulins that simply cannot be duplicated in a formula, although manufacturers continue to try. They advertise their brand as “closest to breast milk”, but even they agree that breast milk is the best. Look at a box of artificial milk – it says on the label. As breast milk is always fresh, you do not lose any nutrients that are destroyed during the processing of formula.
Breast milk is a living tissue that changes to meet your baby’s nutritional needs and to protect him from disease. The fat content of human milk varies from month to month, from day to day and even from hour to hour. For example, milk produced for a premature baby is richer in protein and calories than milk produced for a full-term baby, giving the smaller baby what he needs to catch up with growth.
In cold climates, human milk contains more fat – in warm climates more water. If your baby is very hungry, he sucks more vigorously and gets more greasy milk. If he is just thirsty, he sucks more calmly and gets less calorie milk. As it grows, the fat content of milk will gradually decrease because its growth will slow down and it will need fewer calories per kilogram of body weight.
Formula standards are based on data on human milk collected in one place from different mothers, so each portion of formula is the same. Human milk is constantly being adjusted all the time while your baby is breastfeeding.
Breast milk contains antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antiprotozoal factors, as well as antibodies against very specific disease organisms. Breastfed babies have lower morbidity, anemia, diarrhea, meningitis, diabetes, gastroenteritis, asthma, constipation, allergies, Crohn’s disease, dental and speech problems, childhood cancer, lung disease.
Artificially fed babies are three to four times more likely to suffer from ear infections and lower respiratory tract infections and are sixteen times more likely to get sick in the first two months after birth.
Let’s not forget the importance of emotional security and closeness to the mother, which the baby enjoys. Anyone who has ever seen a baby blissfully fall asleep while breastfeeding or taming the breast during times of stress knows that breastfeeding offers much more than nutritional and immunological benefits.
Breastfeeding ensures that the baby will have a lot of physical contact with his mother – there is no other way to ‘give’ him a breast! Instead of making babies more dependent, research has shown that breastfeeding makes babies more independent when they grow up because their needs were met so effectively when they were young.
How breastfeeding benefits the female body?
Breastfeeding helps your body adjust to the many changes that occur after childbirth. While breastfeeding, two hormones are released – oxytocin, which causes your uterus to contract and return to its pre-pregnancy state faster, minimizing blood loss, and prolactin, which helps you relax. Breastfeeding burns extra calories, and most mothers find that they lose weight faster (without dieting) than mothers who don’t.
Breastfeeding is easier than bottle feeding. I once asked a teenage mother why she chose to breastfeed, and without hesitation she replied, “Because I’m lazy!” The milk is always ready, always at the perfect temperature, and does not need to be measured. There are no bottles to be washed and transported, and there is no milk to be cooled and then warmed.
Night feedings are easier because all you have to do is take the baby to bed with you and breastfeed him while you both fall asleep. Traveling is easier with a breastfed baby – the less there is to carry. In emergencies (whether you are in a snowstorm, tornado, or traffic jam), breast milk is always available immediately.
Breastfeeding a baby is satisfying emotionally. This is not to say that you will not build a relationship with a bottle-fed baby, but there is a unique closeness between the mother and her nursing baby.
Breastfeeding mothers tend to be in tune with their baby’s needs, and this increases not only the baby’s confidence but also the mother’s self-confidence in her skills as a mother. Being able to soothe a sick, nervous or tired baby on the breast is one of the most satisfying things about breastfeeding.
How breastfeeding benefits the family?
Breastfeeding provides health benefits not only for the baby but also for the whole family. The baby smells better. No, really, that’s right. Its poop and vomit have a less unpleasant odor. This is especially pleasing to dads.
When older children see their brother or sister breastfeeding, it is a natural form of education. What could set a better example in a society so engrossed in the idea of taking care of somebody? Showing love. Taking care. Life essentials.
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, breastfeeding ‘forces’ you to rest and sit. It’s as if nature has provided a nutrition system that encourages you to take care of yourself, even if you have a million other things you think you need to do. Relax and enjoy these precious moments because babies grow too fast.
How breastfeeding benefit society?
Breastfeeding is good for nature. Think about it … it doesn’t require the use of energy, packaging materials and doesn’t need animals, fodder, or machinery.
Breastfeeding is good for employers. Because formula-fed children get sick more often and for longer periods of time than breastfed babies, working mothers who do not breastfeed are more likely to be absent from work.
Corporate breastfeeding programs in the United States have resulted in a 27% reduction in absenteeism and a 36% reduction in money spent on treatment. Working mothers who receive support at work also tend to be more loyal workers.
I hope this information has given you food for thought if you are trying to decide whether to breastfeed or not. If you have already made a decision, congratulations. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.