10 breastfeeding benefits
Throughout the world, moms and babies are getting back to basics through the simple, natural act of breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of women who breastfeed has increased from just 60 percent of infants born in 1994 to 75 percent in 2010.
As mothers around the globe celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, Dr. Kamala Ghaey, pediatrician, and Marilyn Fergus, certified lactation consultant, both of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, share just a few of what they say are life-long benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom.
Good for baby
- Liquid gold—Breast milk contains the most natural balance of nutrients and antibodies for your newborn, protecting them at their most fragile state and building life-long defenses. These include the proper balance of proteins, fats and vitamins that truly do a body good and possibly providing protection from some medical conditions.
- Easy on the tummy—Mom’s milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk or artificial formulas. Baby’s developing stomach doesn’t need time to adjust to breast milk, as it might formula. And breast milk changes as your baby grows, naturally ensuring the right balance of nutrients for their developing digestive system. This is especially true for premature babies, which is why the use of breast milk from milk donor banks has gained importance in recent years.
- Better health—Some studies have shown that breastfeeding for the first year decreases a child’s risk for certain chronic medical conditions later in life, including asthma and allergies.
- Gives a head start—According to some research, babies who are breastfed have higher IQs—estimated by as much as four points—as early as age 8 than do those who were raised on formula.
- Decreases risk of childhood obesity—With childhood obesity on the rise, it’s a good idea to start your child’s lifelong diet out right. Research has shown some evidence that breastfeeding lessens a child’s risk of obesity.
Good for mom
- Feel the burn—Breastfeeding burns calories naturally and helps new moms lose their pregnancy weight.
- Lessened risk of breast cancer—According to some studies, breastfeeding baby for the first year may slightly reduce mom’s risk of some cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer.
- Baby bond—One of the best reasons to breastfeed your baby is the emotional bond that develops between the two of you. Studies have shown that the attachment breastfeeding builds is life-lasting, with children being better able to develop a closer relationship not just with mom, but with others throughout life.
- Never leave home without it—Where ever you go, you’ve got a ready meal with you when baby is hungry. There’s little preparation—no juggling bottles, sterilization concerns or heating bottles up. And the use of a pump is an easy alternative when you’re not there.
- On the money—Breastfeeding is a natural money-saver. It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, giving up the bottle could save as much as $13 million a year in product and health care costs.
“These are just a few of the ways moms and babies can experience life-long benefits from breastfeeding,” Dr. Ghaey says. “That’s why many hospitals around the world—including several Advocate hospitals, are all currently pursuing Baby-Friendly Hospital designation.”
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers offering “an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.