Breast is best, the saying goes, and it’s true! Breastfeeding your newborn produces a number of benefits for you and your baby, and it is widely encouraged throughout the medical field.
In a 2012 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said of breastfeeding:
"The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant."—Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk
Other global leaders in health and medicine, such as The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO), are dedicated to educating mothers about breastfeeding and encouraging its practice worldwide.
Below, we discuss some of the main reasons that make breastfeeding such a great, healthy decision for mother and child.
Why it’s Good for the Baby
Breastfeeding greatly decreases the chances of your baby contracting a number of infectious diseases. In the AAP statement cited above, breastfeeding is shown to decrease the risk of respiratory infection, gastrointestinal infections, SIDS, allergic diseases, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Celiac Disease, obesity, leukemia, and lymphoma. There is even some evidence that suggests that breastfeeding can aid in better neurodevelopment.
Breastfeeding is also significantly beneficial for preterm infants by contributing to their underdeveloped immune system and lowering the rates of sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis.
Not to mention, your baby was meant to drink human milk! It’s packed full of vitamins and nutrients that are necessary for proper growth and development.
Why it’s Good for the Mother
Breastfeeding isn’t just good for the baby. Mothers can enjoy numerous health benefits as well. Not only does it help new mommies return to their pre-pregnancy weight, it can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, decrease postpartum blood loss, lower your chances of postpartum depression, and aid in the rapid involution of the uterus.
Exclusively breastfeeding on demand has also been shown to help mothers space pregnancies by delaying ovulation. It should be noted that using breastfeeding as a form of contraception is not 100% guaranteed to prevent conception. You absolutely can get pregnant while breastfeeding, especially if you supplement with formula.
Lastly, breastfeeding facilitates intimate, personal bonding time between you and your baby. Feedings aren’t strictly for nutrition. They help increase the connection between mother and child.
A Special Note to Mothers
While breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, it’s also a challenge. Babies need to feed multiple times a day, and they don’t care if it’s 2 pm or 2 am. Despite all the positive benefits, breastfeeding (especially exclusively breastfeeding) can take a mental and emotional toll on the mother.
Don’t be afraid to seek help from your spouse, friends, or support groups. Many hospitals across the country (including RMC) have some type of breastfeeding support. La Leche League
also has leaders and professionals available all over the world.
The most important thing to remember is this: just because it’s recommended that you breastfeed for at least 6 months to a year, you are NOT
a failure if you wean early. What’s truly important is to breastfeed for as long as you’re mentally and physically able, however long that may be. The decision is up to YOU.
If you have any questions about breastfeeding, or if you need a referral for a local support group, contact the Pediatric Care Center