Breast milk is uniquely suited to the human infant’s nutritional needs and is a live substance with unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against a host of illnesses and diseases for both mothers and children. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat — everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma and allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.
These are some of the reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for mother’s health, too.
Benefits of Breast Milk for Babies:
- “The incidences of pneumonia, colds and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies,” says infant-nutrition expert Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y.
- Breastfeeding can decrease your baby’s risk of some childhood cancers. And mothers have a lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer, an often deadly disease that’s on the rise.
- “It’s also higher in protein and lower in sugar than ‘full’ milk, so even a small amount can hold off your baby’s hunger,” says Heather Kelly, an international board-certified lactation consultant in New York City.
- According to a study published in the journalPediatrics, the United States would save about $13 billion per year in medical costs if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed their newborns for at least six months.
Mothers who breastfeed:
- Have a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers such as breast cancer
- May find it easier to return to their pre-pregnancy weight
- Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. When a woman is pregnant and lactating, her body absorbs calcium much more efficiently.
- Both mother and child have a lower likelihood of being obese.
- You may have heard that nursing burns up to 500 calories a day. Breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce.
- Theoxytocin released when the baby nurses helps the mother’s uterus contract, reducing post-delivery blood loss. Plus, breastfeeding also helps the uterus return to its normal size more quickly—at about six weeks postpartum, compared with 10 weeks for those who don’t breastfeed.
- Breastfeeding your baby around the clock—no bottles or formula— will delay ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. Breastfeeding causes the release of prolactin, which keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered.
- An unmatched feeling of power generates which strengthen the bond with their children
Breastfeeding also confers global environmental benefits. There is no packaging involved, as opposed to infant formulas and other substitutes for human milk that require packaging that ultimately may be deposited in landfills. For every one million formula-fed babies, 150 million containers of formula are consumed; while some of those containers could be recycled, many end up in landfills. In addition, infant formulas must be transported from their place of manufacture to retail locations, such as grocery stores, so that they can be purchased by families. Although breastfeeding requires mothers to consume a small amount of additional calories, it generally requires no containers, no paper, no fuel to prepare, and no transportation to deliver, and it reduces the carbon footprint by saving precious global resources and energy.