Thursday, August 30, 2012

The facts and benefits of breastfeeding

(How nursing mothers serve milk and cookies! My daughter and I when she was about eight months old! I thought this was just a cute idea, I didn't actually let her eat cookies like that at that time.)

Well, I wrote out an article for this topic and it ended up so long, that I decided to go back and instead of having a large block of text that most people probably wouldn't read, list the facts about breast milk and breastfeeding to make it more "everyone" friendly. So, here are the facts!

Breast milk will protect your baby.

-Breast milk fights disease. 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. In fact, among formula-fed babies, ear infections, diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, andtype 2 diabetes are more common.

-As your baby grows, your milk changes to accommodate the needs of your child. By your baby's fifth day, your milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby continue to grow, as well as the nutrients and antibodies to keep him safe.

-Research shows that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood leukemia, diabetes, meningitis, obesity, allergies, and atopic dermatitis in babies as well as SIDS.

-Early breast milk is known as "liquid gold". It's called colostrum and contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents that protect the infant against disease. It is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that protect your baby. Breast milk also aids the development of the infant's own immune system.

-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. They are after all human babies, and not baby cows.

(The number one thing that I found fascinating while doing my breastfeeding research during pregnancy, was the antibodies being given to my baby while nursing. Did you know that your body has antibodies stored up from every sickness you have ever had, from a common cold, to the flu, bronchitis, shingles, chicken pox, etc.? When you breastfeed, you're not only giving those antibodies to your baby to help him fight off those same sicknesses should he develop them, but you're body also creates antibodies for any sickness that your baby might get, even if you've never had it!)

Breastfeeding benefits parents too.

-As long as a mother breastfeeds without substituting formula, foods, or pacifiers for feedings at the breast, the return of her menstrual periods is delayed.

-Breastfeeding makes mommy and baby both feel great. Physical contact is important to newborns. It helps them to feel secure, warm and comforted. Mothers benefit from this closeness as well, as the skin-to-skin contact boosts a mother's oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps milk flow and calms and relaxes the mother, as well as produces contractions in the uterus. The resulting contractions prevent postpartum hemorrhage and promote uterine involution (the return to a non-pregnant state).

-Breastfeeding is good for mothers too, as it lowers the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. It also helps mommy to lose that baby weight! (Production of milk is an active metabolic process, requiring the use of 200 to 500 calories per day, on average. To use up this many calories, a bottle feeding mother would have to swim at least 30 laps in a pool or bicycle uphill for an hour daily.)

-When you breastfeed, life can be easier in many ways. There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize and no buying, measuring, mixing, heating, checking and recalls to worry about. Not only that, it saves a LOT of money. Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year, depending on how much your baby eats. Breastfed babies are also sick less often which lowers health care costs.

Breastfeeding also benefits society.

-Recent research shows that if 90% of families breastfed exclusively for six months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented, and the United States would save approximately $13 Billion per year. Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations; medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never breastfed infants.

-Breastfeeding contributes to a more productive workforce since mothers miss less work to care for sick babies, and employer medical costs are also lower.

-It's also better for the environment. There is less trash and plastic waste, compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies.

Other benefits:

- A nursing mother will usually need 500 extra calories per day, which means that she should eat a wide variety of well-balanced foods. This introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers' breast milk, which has different flavors depending on what their mothers have eaten. By tasting the foods of their "culture," breastfed infants more easily accept solid foods.

-Some studies have shown that children who were exclusively breastfed have slightly higher IQs than children who were formula fed.

Just remember, breasts were created for breastfeeding, not eye candy for men. :P It's natural, and more beneficial for your baby and your family than formula could ever be. For those of us who have a choice, it's clear! Don't let the uninformed and uneducated tell you otherwise, the facts don't lie. Below are two links to websites that I referred to, to be sure I was in fact stating the truth. The second site is something you should check out if you're pregnant and trying to decide what you're going to do when your own baby arrives. It states the facts about breast milk and breastfeeding, but also lists tips to help you achieve comfortable nursing, should you ever have an issue, as well as information on laws that protect mothers who nurse, support groups, etc.! :)


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