You’ve probably heard the idea that breastfeeding is best for your baby. While this is true, it is important to remember that breastfeeding is not only best for your baby, it is best for everyone involved with you and your baby.
Breastfeeding your baby means a number of benefits for him or her. First, and foremost, it means illness prevention for your tiny one. Breastfeeding gives your baby protection because of the antibodies your breast milk contains. Your immune system makes antibodies to deal with germs that invade your body. Your baby’s immune system is underdeveloped. It takes years to develop the kind of hardened immune systems an adult has. However, just because your baby’s immune system is immature, that doesn’t mean that constant threats are bombarding him or her. When a germ attacks your body, your immune system immediately goes to work. It creates antibodies to help you fight infection from that germ. When a germ attacks your baby’s body, his or her immune system simply cannot handle the threat. As a result, he or she quickly becomes ill.
However, if you are breastfeeding, the baby gets your antibodies to the germs he or she is facing. You are giving your baby’s immune system the tools it needs to take care of the problems it is facing. This can mean protection from things like ear infections, both upper and lower respiratory infections, common allergies (including dust, mold, pollen, and other common irritants), disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, the common cold, viruses like flu, staph infections, diabetes, strep infections, childhood cancer, e coli infections, meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS. More than just infection protection, though, breastfed babies develop their facial and jaw muscles better than bottle fed babies. Breast milk is more difficult for a baby to obtain. It requires that they suck much harder than they might with a bottle. As a result, their jaw muscles develop much quicker. This can mean less risk of dental problems later in life. This can also mean that your baby will have better speech development than a bottle fed infant might.
Your baby doesn’t get all of the benefits from breastfeeding, though. You get some pretty serious benefits as well. Recent studies have shown that by breastfeeding, you reduce your risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. Moreover, breastfeeding is a source of stress relief. When you baby begins to nurse, hormones are released into your body to help you relax. That means each time you sit down to feed your baby, your body is flooded with tiny stress relievers.
Not only do you and your baby benefit from breastfeeding, your employer does too. Because breastfed babies tend to be healthier, breastfeeding moms tend to miss fewer days of work for illness or doctors’ appointments. Moreover, breastfed moms have shown an easier adjustment to leaving their babies with other caregivers, which means they are more productive in the workplace environment.
Breastfeeding offers benefits for everyone involved, especially your baby.