The many benefits of breastfeeding

March 4th, 2008 · No Comments

There are many benefits to breastfeeding, not just for your baby, but for yourself, your partner and your family. Did you know that breastfeeding your baby can help you to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight quicker? Combined with a healthy balanced diet, you are more likely to shed those extra pounds sooner. That’s because breastfeeding uses up an extra 500 calories a day.



BENEFITS FOR MUM

  • Breastfeeding also reduces your risk of some female cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancers. This is especially important if you know of anyone in your family that has had cancer, as certain cancers can become more common if a grandmother or mother has had it.
  • (Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective www.babyfriendly.org.uk/pdfs/World_Cancer_Research_Fund_2007-10.pdf )
  • Breastfeeding also protects your health by giving you stronger bones as you get older. This then gives you better protection against osteoporosis (brittle bones) and hip fractures that are more common in the elderly.
  • (Paton, L.M., Alexander, J.L., Nowson, C.A., Margerison, C., Frame, M.G., Kaymakci, B., John D Wark, J.D (2003) Pregnancy and lactation have no long-term deleterious effect on measures of bone mineral in healthy women: a twin study. American Journal of clinical nutrition. 77 (3) 707-714 )
  • There is a possible link with breastfeeding and lower amounts of women who get post-natal depression. This is possibly due to the fact that oxytocin, a hormone that helps breastfeeding, is actually nicknamed “the love hormone”, the same one that is produced during sex, and makes you feel good! It helps with bonding and positive feelings towards your baby. Oxytocin also helps to shrink your womb down quicker after you have had your baby, helping you get back to “normal”.





BENEFITS FOR BABIES

  • Breastfeeding protects your baby against bouts of gastroenteritis (severe vomiting and diarrhoea). This is partly because of the protective factors in the breast milk lines your baby’s gut from birth onwards, but also it is easy for formula milk to become contaminated with bacteria, causing your baby to become ill. Many bottle fed babies are admitted to hospital with this condition due to poor sterilising or because of mixing the formula properly. Of course, if your baby is breast fed, you don’t have to worry about sterilising!
  • Breast milk actually acts a weak laxative, and your baby is less likely to be constipated. It is important to feed your baby from birth onwards, as colostrum (the yellow-coloured milk that is produced in the first few days) gets rid of the meconium (the green/black tar looking poo that babies pass after birth) in the baby’s gut quicker, and they are then less likely to become jaundiced.
  • You may find that your baby may also poo more than a bottle fed baby might, but there is less waste and the nappies certainly smell a lot better!!
  • Many babies get ear infections, but breastfeeding can protect against this due to the way the baby suckles at the breast. If you look at a baby breastfeeding, compared with a baby sucking on a bottle, you will notice the breastfed baby using his/her jaw. This then keeps the delicate tubes in the ear clear, and therefore reducing ear infections.
  • (Duncan, B., Ey, J., Holberg, C.J., Wright, A.L., Martinez, F.D., Taussig, L.M (1994) Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 4 months protects against otitis media. Paediatrics. 93 (3) 537-8 )
  • As obesity is currently in the news, it may not be surprising to know that breastfeeding your baby can also protect them from being obese in childhood, and later on in life! Breastfed babies are usually leaner and put weight on at a steadier rate than bottle fed babies. Breast milk is digested a lot easier than formula milk, and is geared exactly for your baby. Not many people realise that formula milk is actually cow’s milk!
  • Breastfeeding your baby may not only help him/her grow up leaner, it may help against diabetes (high sugar levels in the body) as some research found that the hormones involved in breaking down sugar in the body worked better in those people who were breastfed. (http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/84/5/1043?ct=ct)





GENERAL BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING

  • Breastfeeding is seen as “green”, important to those who care about the environment. There are no cartons, tins or bottles to throw away. There is no electricity used to heat up the milk as it is always at the right temperature, and is always there for you, making it the most convenient food ever!
  • Formula milk is no longer given free by health centres, and can cost quite a bit to buy. In fact, just to buy formula (not counting bottles, sterilisers etc) it costs on average £500 per year. Just think what you could buy with that? Designer clothes, a fab new pram for your baby? Breastfeeding will save you money.
  • Do you worry about getting up in the night and having to feed your baby? Are you going to get enough sleep? Well, if a woman decides to bottle feed, she spends about a week of her life in the kitchen in the middle of the night making and warming bottles, whilst her baby is crying to be fed. By breastfeeding him/her, it is easy to get them out of the cot, feed them sat in bed or in a chair, change them and then put them back in the cot. How much time do you think that saves? A lot!
  • If your partner/mother is worried about the fact they won’t be able to feed the baby, suggest that they can help bath and change the baby whilst you establish breastfeeding. Once you are comfy about feeding, you can then express your milk (see topic on expressing and storing) and they can then become more involved in the feeding routine. They won’t get left out; perhaps they can be doing things for you while you put your feet up and feed the baby! Make the most of it!

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