While the fetus is developing, it gets all its needed nutrients from the mother through the umbilical cord. This includes compounds that help the baby's immune system to protect it from harm. But even after birth the baby's immune system is still not fully mature. Fortunately, nature has cleverly developed a solution. The added help it needs it gets in part from colostrum and milk via breastfeeding.
The benefits of breastfeeding
During the first few days of the baby's life, the mother's breast forms and delivers colostrum. This is a thin, whitish or yellowish fluid that comes through the nipple, just as milk does. It is rich with fats, carbohydrates, white blood cells and other compounds that both nourish and provide immune system protection.
Colostrum contains proteins, most especially immunoglobulins, a type of antibody. These antibodies are one of the body's foremost weapons against invading bacteria, fungi, viruses and other disease causing organisms. Among other benefits, the antibodies from colostrum coat the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and help prevent bacteria in the gut from entering the bloodstream. The colostrum also contains numerous macrophages, small cells that envelop and carry away disease causing germs.
At the same time, the breastfed baby receives the best nutrition possible. Nature has evolved breast milk to contain everything the newborn needs.
Fats, for example, which adults strive so hard to minimize, are essential for the proper development of the nervous system. They help regulate the hormone system, too.
Carbohydrates are the body's energy source. They're another category of food calories that dieting adults will often try to keep down. But babies should never be put on a diet. Breast milk is rich in carbohydrates of just the right type and amount to help them develop in an optimal way.
Numerous studies have shown that breastfeeding is highly beneficial for babies. Most strongly suggest that breastfed babies have a better head start in life than those who are only bottle fed. The rate of infectious disease is lower among newborns who are breastfed. The odds of infant diabetes are lower according to some studies. Breastfed babies see fewer hospital and doctor visits.
But breastfeeding is also good for the mother.
When a mother doesn't breastfeed, she may experience an uncomfortable sensation in the breast. Artificial pumping to extract the milk is usually required. Breastfeeding eliminates the need to do so. Some may wish to use a pump anyway, in order to have a store of mother's milk available.
The bonding that takes place between mother and newborn during breastfeeding may be hard to measure medically. But the benefits are observable and real. This quiet time between mother and child are good for both.
Some reliable studies suggest that breastfeeding also helps lower the odds of ovarian and breast cancers. Breastfeeding also delays the return of ovulation and menstruation. That gives the recovering mother a break from having to deal with periods during a very busy time of life. At the same time, it reduces the odds of another pregnancy right away.
Give your newborn the best possible start in life by breastfeeding. Give yourself the benefits as well. Nature has evolved this excellent method for optimizing the health of mother and child. Take advantage of all it has to offer.
Benefits of breastfeeding spelled out
We live in a bottle feeding society. Many mother's not only find bottle feeding more convenient, they have also been led to believe that feeding formula is somehow better for them and their baby. This information is wrong. The benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby generally far outweigh any risks or problems you may face.
Benefits of breast milk
The most obvious and also most numerous benefits from breastfeeding are to the baby directly from breast milk. No only does breast milk contain the exact nutritional requirements for your baby, it has numerous other positives as well, including:
Boosts the immune system - Most of the immunity a baby has comes from the mother's breast milk. Not only does the milk in general contain materials to help fight infection, it is actually tailored to what the mother is exposed to (i.e. what the baby is probably exposed to). This means your child gets custom protection from the diseases they face. Not only do breastfed babies get sick less, they are also less likely to develop immune disorders or allergy related diseases, including asthma.
Helps proper physical development - Breastfed babies gain more weight than formula fed babies at the beginning, but that tapers off. Studies have shown that breastfed babies are less likely to be obese.
Helps proper mental development - Breast milk helps to keep babies in a more alert state, which contributes to proper brain development.
Benefits of breast feeding the natural way
While you may consider bottle feeding breast milk, you should be aware that the simple act of breast feeding also has benefits to your child, including:
Increased bonding - Being close and connected to your child makes them feel safer with you and bond to you more.
Promotes good oral health - Not only does breastfeeding prevent bottle tooth decay, it could also keep your child from having to wear braces in the future.
Improves hand eye coordination - This is especially true if you switch sides and positions regularly.
Benefits to you
In addition to being beneficial to your baby, breastfeeding can provide benefits to you as well, including:
Less Hemorrhaging - Mothers who formula feed have to be given medicine after birth to shrink the uterus and prevent dangerous hemorrhaging. Nursing mother's produce this chemical naturally.
Less stress - Breast feeding has been shown to decrease the incidence of illness in babies. Dealing with a healthy baby is much easier than having to deal with a sick baby.
Birth control - Consistent breast feeding has been shown to be effective in preventing ovulation. This effect may also help prevent breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers.
Weight loss - Producing breast milk burns up a lot of calories. Mothers who nurse have been shown to take off the pregnancy weight faster.
Increased bonding - In addition to helping your baby bond with you, breastfeeding produces hormones that help you bond better with your baby.
Convenient - Instant food at the right temperature.
While breast feeding is usually best, there are some instances where formula may be the better choice. The first of these is if you test positive for diseases that can be transmitted through breast milk. You should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding in these cases. The second reason for bottle feeding is if you take certain medications of illegal drugs. Again, you should speak to your doctor in this situation.
Overall, breastfeeding can be a rewarding and beneficial experience for you and your baby.