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The Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

We have reentered the era of “breast is best” and the La Leche League is making a fierce comeback. Today, birthing centers are armed with a crew of lactation consultants who make it known that their number one goal is to get every mother breastfeeding. And it is estimated by the La Leche League that nearly 41% of all new mothers are giving breastfeeding a serious go. This is evident by all the legislation and controversy facing mothers about breastfeeding in public.

The argument to breastfeed or not to breastfeed is not a new one. Decades ago, the reality is that women did not have much of a choice. Baby formulas were not made with the precision that they are today, and children who were not breastfed missed out on important life building nutrients. Today, however – many of the formulas on the market, specialized to suit all sorts of digestive needs, allergies and individualized infant needs, are considered both safe and healthy alternatives to breastfeeding. And, with so many women going back to work after a baby is born – and others who for numerous reasons are unable to breastfeed, it is a nice option to have worthy formulas on stand by for those women who do not breastfeed their children.
The most important thing for any mother to be, or new mom to realize is that choosing to breastfeed or choosing not to breastfeed is a personal decision. The decision you make should be your own, should be something that you personally feel good about, and should make you happy. It in no way furthers or hinders your ability to be an awesome mom!

Still, it is impossible to negate the health benefits of breastfeeding. As with most things in life, the things that nature intends for us are often our best options. And the female body, much to Victoria Secret’s dismay, was intricately built to breastfeed. That is the reason that women have breasts.

So what are the benefits of breastfeeding?

  • One of the most beneficial aspects of breastfeeding comes from the colostrum. Colostrum is the ‘milk’ that is present before the actual milk comes in and is filled to the gills with anti-bodies and weapons to help build an infants immune system. Getting this colostrum within the first 24 hours of birth can mean less sick visits for your baby, especially in the first three months.
  • Breast milk is also filled with anti-bodies that come from the mother. Translated, this means that all the anti-bodies to fight infection that have built up in the mothers system, are being passed along to the baby. If you have fought the flu, or bacterial infections (which all of us have) your baby is being armed with similar antibodies that will help them fight off infection and bacteria as well. This continues as long as you continue to breast feed.
  • Research firmly shows that children who were breastfeed are less likely to have weight issues later in life. Even though many breastfed babies are larger and ‘fatter’ in the beginning of their lives, breast milk tends to levelize sugar levels and help form the metabolism to be efficient throughout life.
  • Risk of sudden infant death syndrome is lowered by 25% for breastfed babies than it is for formula fed babies.
  • The long-term outlook for breastfed babies is better in terms of fighting off or not having life-altering diseases such as diabetes, asthma, Crohns disease, digestive problems, and even cancer. Studies show that breastfed humans have better immune systems and higher levels of cellular rejuvenation which can reduce cancer risks in adulthood. Additionally, breast-fed babies as adults are less likely to have high blood pressure later in life.
  • Because breast milk is filled with proteins and antibodies, breast fed babies have fewer allergies than those that are not breastfed.
  • Some research shows that breastfed babies tend to have higher IQ’s than their non-breastfed counterparts.
  • Breastfeeding mothers often do not have problems with post partum depression, return to a healthy pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, and reduce their risks of female cancers such as those that affect the breast and ovaries. This is because a chemical compound called oxytocin is released when women breastfeed. Oxytocin helps to shrink the uterus back to pre-baby size, has an anesthetic affect on sleep and mood by inducing relaxation, and regulates hormone production.
  • Economically speaking, breastfeeding is virtually free. Plus, there are no bottles to fill and wash, no formula to buy, and no guesswork involved in finding the perfect formula to suit your infant’s needs.

Many women will proclaim that breastfeeding is the best way to bond with your baby. As an author who has both breastfed and not breastfed my children, this is a statement that is not necessarily true. As long as you feel good about the choices you are making when it comes to caring for, and feeding your baby – you will find that you can bond with your non-breastfed children just as securely as you would if you were breastfeeding.

In the long run, you have to do what works the best for you and your family. Certainly, no one can say that breastfeeding is not the best option for you and your baby, especially with all the research showing otherwise. However, it is important to realize that many healthy children and adults today are the result of formula feeding as well. The best advice is to go with your gut, give breastfeeding a go – even if you are reluctant at first, and then decide which is the best way to nourish your baby.

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