In honor of August being National Breastfeeding Month, I wanted to do a post on the benefits of this awesome and ultimate SuperFood!
For any of you happen to be on the fence about whether or not you’re going to nurse your little babe, please read on!
Breastfeeding is a subject that I get really fired up about and can talk about for days, so I will do my best to keep it simple!
It can be challenging, frustrating, awkward, and sometimes painful (don’t be scared, keep reading!). It may take a little time to get the hang of, and it is a lot of work, but the benefits to baby and mother are so immense that they’re worth every moment of discomfort or uncertainty, and the joy it brings is beyond measure!
Benefits to Society Recent research shows that if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented. The United States would also save $13 billion per year, as medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants.
Benefits to baby Known as liquid gold, colostrum is the thick yellow first breast milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby. Although your baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her tiny stomach can hold.
Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen.
For most babies, especially premature babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula. The proteins in formula are made from cow’s milk and it takes time for babies’ stomachs to adjust to digesting them.
The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness. This protection is unique; formula cannot match the chemical makeup of human breast milk. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
If that weren’t enough…
Benefits for Mama
Breastfeeding burns an average of 500 calories a day, helping new mothers shed pregnancy pounds. It also helps the uterus shrink back to its original size and can minimize bleeding after birth. It is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression. Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time to feed a new baby.
Physical contact is important to newborns. It can help them feel secure, warm, and comforted. Mothers can benefit from this closeness, as well. What’s better to bond than staring into each other’s eyes for hours a day? The skin-to-skin contact can boost the mother’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin (aka The Love Drug) is a hormone that helps milk flow and calm the mother. When baby or child is sick, hurting, or upset, breastfeeding has a naturally soothing effect!
Mama’s milk is always at the right temperature, always nutritionally complete, never needs to be sterilized and always readily available. No cans of formula to carry around, no warming bottles in the wee hours of the night. Breastfeeding is the epitome of “Fast Food”! Some slings or carriers even allow you to nurse while wearing the baby, which means you can keep on trucking during that noon feeding if you want!
Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year, depending on how much your baby eats. If you opt for organic formula, you can shell out up to $8000 for baby’s first year! Breastfed babies are also sick less often, which can lower health care costs.
(from todaysmama.com) Breast milk has a nearly zero ecological and carbon footprint. In contrast, artificial baby formula production, distribution and consumption pollutes our land, air, and water and sucks up substantial natural resources – and as a result has a HUGE ecological and carbon footprint.
If just these mothers breastfed for a full year (with solids introduced after six months), these resources would be saved:
- 2.5 million pounds of paper
- 25 million pounds of metal
- 27 million gallons of milk, requiring 465 million pounds of dairy feed to produce
- 6 million gallons of oil for production, transportation and refrigeration
- 135 million pounds of carbon dioxide produced by the use of those 6 million gallons of oil
- The 550 million containers of artificial baby formula sold each year to U.S. bottle-fed babies alone, stacked end to end, would circle the earth one and a half times.
- If every child in America were bottle-fed, almost 86,000 tons of tin would be needed to produced 550 million cans wrapped in 1,230 tons of paper labels for just one year’s worth of formula.
If you need support, there are several places to find it, and it doesn’t have to cost you a thing! La Leche League International (LLL) is a free service, usually consisting of a group of new and veteran mothers. Their mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother. Find a leader or group here.
Lactation consultants are professional breastfeeding specialists trained to help mothers with a variety of issues. A lactation consultant may have a private practice; work at a hospital, a clinic, or a doctor's office. Typically, she helps mothers and babies with latching difficulties, painful nursing, low milk production, or inadequate weight gain. To find one in your area, try here.
How long to nurse?
Firstly, ANY amount of breastfeeding is beneficial to your baby. Some experts say six months, some say a year. There is no right or wrong answer to this question because sometimes mothers plan to nurse for a certain period of time and then change their minds. During the first six months of a baby’s life, he or she will be growing in terms of length, weight and extras like hair and nails. As such, the nutrients from breast milk are perfectly formulated to enhance this period. After six months, the process regulates and slows. Personally, I am STILL nursing at 3 years. I never thought I would for this long and sometimes I think of quitting, but always when I contemplate REALLY stopping I burst into tears. So I will wait for my little bird to make that decision for me. This is called baby-led Weaning -- letting your child decide when he/she is ready to stop. Every kid is different, and you’ll both know when it’s right. Maybe high school?
A great resource for questions you may have is Breastfeeding.com
National Breastfeeding Month’s slogan is "Join the Boob-olution!" I couldn’t agree more! Ladies: whip ‘em out!
What are YOUR thoughts and experiences? As always, I’m here every Monday to answer any EcoBaby questions you may have, just comment here with them, or pop me an email!