We all know that breast is best when it comes to nurturing the physical and metaphysical needs of our babies. One breastfeeding pros is that the antibodies in a mother’s breast milk and colostrum are designed specifically to protect the child by building up his or her immune system. The emotional security breastfeeding offers to an infant is fundamental. The baby gets exposure to different flavors based on the mother’s diet. She is more inclined as a child to eat vegetables, as well as a variety of other foods.
Breastfeeding vs. formula facts
Cow’s milk was made to grow baby cows, and human milk is designed precisely to grow baby humans. Breastfed infants are more in control of how much they eat than are bottle fed babies. They are less likely to be overfed and are therefore more likely to develop healthy eating habits when older. Breast milk is always ready, warm, available, and sanitary. Breastfeeding helps guard babies against some childhood cancers like leukemia and protects girl infants from some female cancers as women. That’s just to generalize some of the leading pluses for breastfed babies.
What you should know about breastfeeding and its advantages to moms
Less commonly discussed in our culture are the equally powerful and impressive benefits to the woman who breastfeeds her babies. And the greater total time a woman breastfeeds during her life, the more impact these benefits have for her.
Breastfeeding and breast cancer
For starter, a woman who breastfeeds her children is less likely to develop certain reproductive cancers (including breast cancer). If a woman was both breastfed as an infant and also breastfeeds her children, she has an increased protection over a woman who benefits from only one or the other. With breast cancer being such a major concern, it’s important for women to know that we can help ourselves by breastfeeding extensively as mothers, and by making sure our daughters nurse as babies for at least one year (and grow up to breastfeed their babies).
Breastfeeding and osteoporosis
Also, a major issue in women’s health is osteoporosis. Again, breastfeeding can make a substantial impact for women in this area. Our bodies stop storing calcium in the bones at around age 18. So if you don’t get plenty of these important bone builders in the early years of your life, you will already be deficient. (Sadly, more and more young children are showing symptoms of osteoporosis, because they are not consuming the amount of calcium necessary to build their bones in the first place.) After this age, your bones don’t get any more calcium, and for every day your body does not get its daily value of it, it will take it from your bones, making them weaker and weaker over the years.
Here’s where breastfeeding can help. While a woman is breastfeeding, her bones are given a second opportunity to absorb calcium. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to prevent old-age spine fractures that often lead to death. And it’s a great opportunity to make sure you eat the three servings of dairy a day you’re supposed to get and which do help you lose weight. Women who breastfeed will less likely to have the risk of bone fracture later in life than women who don’t.
Breastfeeding helps you lose weight
For the first six weeks of lactation at least, breastfeeding will help restore a woman’s figure. It burns around 500 calories a day (so make sure that you do not eat more than 500 extra calories each day while nursing!). That is like running at least a mile each day from the time your baby is born. And the fat from your body (especially in the hips and thighs) is what gets burned up in those 500 calories (so long as you don’t overeat).
Also, early on, nursing stimulates the uterus to contract and shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. For some women, these contractions are initially painful. For others, they barely notice them. Either way, they are extremely effective. Before pregnancy, the uterus is about the size of your fist. By the end of gestation, the uterus has increased up to 1000X that size. Women who do not breastfeed will always have a uterus distinctly larger than before they were pregnant, resulting in a minor to a quite obvious protrusion of the lower abdomen.
Breastfeeding and “mother’s intuition”
While nursing, hormones like oxytocin, which are called the “mothering hormones,” are released. These hormones help make up what is commonly known as “mother’s intuition.” This means a breastfeeding mother is more likely to be able to care well for her new baby’s needs. These hormones are also relaxation-inducing and even sleep-inducing, which makes it very beneficial to breastfeed to comfort not only the child but also the distraught new mother.
Breastfeeding is very convenient for moms
Mothers can breastfeed anywhere, without needing anything but you, your baby, and a blanket (for nursing in public). You can do it while sleeping in your bed, rather than be getting up over and over in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle and feed your baby in the rocking chair in the cold and dark. The only downfall here is that the father or a helpful, overnight-visiting mother-in-law can’t do it for you. On the other hand, there is no need to remember to take your baby’s meal along with you on an outing or to plan times away from home and an electric heating device around baby’s feeding times.
It is quite simple to nurse discreetly virtually anywhere, despite the occasional outburst from insensitive observers who usually behave this way because, unfortunately, they have witnessed a truly inconsiderate and bare-breasted nursing mother. You do not have to be exposed to nurse in public. And you do have rights regarding nursing in public.
Newborn babies eat every two hours for an hour at a time. This means a new baby eats 12 times in 24 hours and spends 12 hours eating each day. How do bottle-feeding parents keep up with that number of bottles in the time-frame they are needed? Who has time to wash and sterilize all of them? How do they get it done before the baby is screaming for a clean, formula-filled, warm bottle again? Is it convenient to bottle feed for Dad to be able to help Mom if that means that, while Dad is feeding baby, Mom is washing bottles instead of resting?
I was always very thankful to be the only one to feed my baby. Whenever she is hungry, I would be sitting down with my feet up, or curled up in bed with her napping while she ate. It was the single most luxurious experience of my life. I refused to feel guilty about it.
Breastfeeding saves money
New parents are always shocked at the price of a little can of infant formula. Affording disposable diapers is financial burden enough. The formula costs more than the diapers that collect the biological cast-off from the digested formula! (And a significant amount of that formula is cast off, compared to breast milk which is virtually entirely absorbed and used by the baby.) And you will need to buy that stuff for a year.
It makes sense that baby formula is so expensive. It is developed in a very serious lab situation. It’s designed to be a good substitute for the real thing. It used to be cow’s milk and was changed and added to in impressive ways to be digestible for babies, as well as nurturing babies as close as possible to the degree of breast milk. So yes, feeding your infant a synthetic version of something your body started making as soon as your baby was born and famished regardless of whether you use it, will cost you an arm and a leg.
Breast milk is free, and you get it whether you intend to use it or not. And waiting for your breasts to quit making milk that you are not using is hellishly painful and inconvenient. It’s much easier to nurse your baby and get rid of the engorgement in your breasts.
Breastfeeding means baby’s poop isn’t smelly
Your baby is unlikely to become constipated since breastmilk is a natural laxative. Plus, a breastfed baby has less gas (unless your diet causes a sensitive baby’s system to become gassy), their gas doesn’t stink, they burp less, their spit-up doesn’t stink, plus their clothes and bibs and blankets don’t develop that unwash-out-able sour formula smell. Neither, I might add, does your car, or diaper bag, or your clothes, or your bed.
If you are pregnant and considering whether or not to breastfeed, make sure you do plenty of research to know more about breastfeeding 101. Women who are well educated about breastfeeding and its benefits are much more likely to decide to do it, to do it well, and to do it for a long time. There is a lot to be said about the miracle of breastfeeding, but unfortunately most of the enthusiastic people out there are just sticking with shouting “breast is best” and making women feel guilty if they need or choose to feed their babies formula.
There are so many great reasons to breastfeed, and it’s important that women and their supportive husbands know them. The more facts you know all about breastfeeding and its benefits to babies and mothers and society, the more motivated you will be to do it. It becomes something meaningful, rather than just an obligation that you blindly try to obey. Breastfeeding doesn’t always seem that great in the beginning. Thus, it’s important to have a firm grasp on what a great thing it is, for you and your baby.
Source: Complete Book of Breastfeeding by Marvin S. Eiger, M.D. and Sally Wendkos Olds, Third Edition, 1999, Workman Publishing, New York.