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BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING

photo of baby breastfeeding

There are many benefits to breastfeeding. Even if you are able to do it for only a short time, your baby's immune system can benefit from breast milk. Here are many other benefits of breast milk for a mother, her baby, and others:

BENEFITS FOR BABY:

bulletBreast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
bulletAs a result, breastfed infants grow exactly the way they should. They tend to gain less unnecessary weight and to be leaner. This may result in being less overweight later in life.
bulletPremature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
bulletBreastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.

BENEFITS FOR MOM:

bulletNursing uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the pounds of pregnancy. It also helps the uterus to get back to its original size and lessens any bleeding a woman may have after giving birth.
bulletBreastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding (no supplementing with formula), delays the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. (However, you should still talk with your doctor or nurse about birth control choices.)
bulletBreastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and possibly the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
bulletBreastfeeding makes your life easier. It saves time and money. You do not have to purchase, measure, and mix formula. There are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night!
bulletA mother can give her baby immediate satisfaction by providing her breast milk when her baby is hungry.
bulletBreastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time for herself and her baby.
bulletBreastfeeding can help a mother to bond with her baby. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure, warm and comforted.
bulletBreastfeeding mothers may have increased self-confidence and feelings of closeness and bonding with their infants.

BENEFITS FOR SOCIETY:

bulletBreastfeeding saves on health care costs. Total medical care costs for the nation are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants since breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.
bulletBreastfeeding contributes to a more productive workforce. Breastfeeding mothers miss less work, as their infants are sick less often. Employer medical costs also are lower and employee productivity is higher.
bulletBreastfeeding is better for our environment because there is less trash and plastic waste compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies

 

Health Risks of Not Breastfeeding

bulletBreast milk has agents (called antibodies) in it to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Recent studies show that babies who are not exclusively breastfed for 6 months are more likely to develop a wide range of infectious diseases including ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and have more hospitalizations. Also, infants who are not breastfed have a 21% higher postneonatal infant mortality rate in the U.S.
bulletSome studies suggest that infants who are not breastfed have higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the first year of life, and higher rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol and asthma. More research in these areas is needed (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2005).
bulletBabies who are not breastfed are sick more often and have more doctor's visits.
bulletAlso, when you breastfeed, there are no bottles and nipples to sterilize. Unlike human milk straight from the breast, infant formula has a chance of being contaminated.