Updated: Apr 10
Why should I breastfeed my baby?
Everyone has heard "Breast is Best" and it has caused quite a few loud debates. But why is it that we consider breastmilk the best option for baby?
Besides the fact breastmilk is the food your baby was biologically designed to consume and thrive from, there are many reasons why breastmilk is the ideal nutritional source for your baby. This is not to say there are not legitimate circumstances where formula supplementation is necessary, but today we're talking about breastmilk. We will talk about supplementing later.
Physically, breastmilk is optimal nutrition for your baby. Colostrum is the "first milk" present after your baby is born (sometimes present before your baby is born!). Colostrum is packed full of antibodies to help support your baby's still developing immune system. There's a notion out there that babies don't have immune systems, but that's not the full truth. They do have an immune system, and it is shared by and managed by their mother's immune system.
Breastmilk-fed babies are less likely to experience constipation than their formula fed counterparts, are less likely to experience dehydration in hot environments as breastmilk adapts to meet baby's immediate needs, and they are at a lower risk of future ailments such as asthma, allergies, diabetes, and more. Additionally, at-breast feeding is vital for optimal oral and cranial development!
Beyond the physical benefits, babies experience emotional benefits from breastfeeding as well. Breastfeeding doesn't simply satisfy hunger and thirst, it builds attachment and is a comfort mechanism for illness, pain, and discomfort.
Breastfeeding isn't just good for babies, it's good for moms!
Breastfeeding can be hard. The anticipation of breastfeeding challenges can lead many mothers to avoid this extra stressor and "simply" formula feed. The thing is, with the proper education and support, breastfeeding doesn't *have* to be hard. There will always be exceptions, of course, but in general, once you get the hang of breastfeeding and figure out what works for you, it can be easier than bottle feeding!
In what ways is breastfeeding good for moms? First of all it's the biological "next step". First, you ovulated, then you conceived, then you spent (hopefully) 9 months pregnant, you gave birth, and the next step is breastfeeding. By initiating this "next step", mothers can reduce the chance risk of postpartum hemorrhage as suckling at the breast helps to contract the uterus, returning it to pre-pregnancy size. Furthermore, breastfeeding helps to kick off the naturally expected hormonal chain of events that occurs postpartum. When this can happen as designed, there is a decreased risk of postpartum mood disorders (again, there are plenty of other factors to consider so this is not one size fits all).
Some mothers experience easier weight loss postpartum due to the caloric demand of breastfeeding, however this is not a "hard rule". Nursing can delay return of fertility which is one of my own favorite "breastfeeding side effects". But more impressively, breastfeeding is associated with decreased risks of breast cancer and uterine cancer. There is also emerging evidence that breastmilk itself can help defeat various kinds of cancers!
If you're considering breastfeeding, I'm curious to know which of the advantages of breastfeeding you're most attracted to. Share your answer in the comments section below!
If you're a pregnant MamaBear planning to breastfeed, make sure you check out my self-paced online Breastfeeding With Confidence course today! This introductory breastfeeding course will help you understand the basics of starting your breastfeeding relationship off on "the right foot".
If you're excited about breastfeeding your newborn but having some struggles, feel free to schedule a Virtual Lactation Consult. If you are local to me in the Wichita Falls/North Texas area and would like an in-person breastfeeding support visit, please contact me today at email@example.com.
Jaimie Zaki is a military wife, homeschooling Catholic mom of four, birth doula, motherhood photographer, and IBCLC (International board certified lactation consultant) supporting families virtually and locally in the Wichita Falls, Texas area. Jaimie is dedicated to ensuring you have a positive birth and breastfeeding experience where you feel heard and supported. If you have any questions for Jaimie email firstname.lastname@example.org