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Benefits of Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding is best for mother, baby, family and society.

Benefits for Mom

  • Confidence. All of the research on human milk mentions its benefits as the perfect food. The breastfeeding mother knows that she is providing the best possible food for her baby.

  • Special bonding for mother and baby. Mother develops closeness with her baby, and is in tune with the baby’s needs. The mother and baby bond, not only because of the closeness of the breastfeeding relationship, but also because the mother’s body produces special hormones while she is breastfeeding.

  • Human milk is always warm and ready. Human milk is always available at the right temperature (never too hot or too cold). It does not spoil and cannot be contaminated while in the breast. Since there is nothing to prepare, it will never be over diluted or too concentrated. During natural disasters, breastfeeding moms have one less thing to worry about.

  • Breastfeeding saves money. Human milk is free; formula for one baby can cost more than $2,000. WIC is a supplementary program and does not provide all the formula the baby needs; WIC mothers still have to buy some formula. Since breastfed babies are healthier, less money is spent on doctors and medications.

  • Breastfeeding saves time. Mother does not have to spend time shopping for formula, preparing the baby’s food, and washing bottles and accessories.

  • It is easier to take the baby places. There are no bottles or formula to carry, open, refrigerate, or heat. Mom does not have to worry about the baby’s food spoiling if she is out for the day. She does not have to worry about running out of formula if she cannot get to the store.

  • Less spitting up. Because human milk digests easily and babies swallow less air while feeding, they spit up less.

  • Delayed menstrual period. When menstruation returns depends largely on the frequency of the feedings. Menstruation returns when the baby sleeps through the night, receives supplementary bottles, or is given a pacifier. Some women resume their periods as early as six weeks, while others may not menstruate again until breastfeeding has totally ceased. Not having periods saves money and lowers blood loss (which may help anemic women). Since a woman can be fertile before the return of her menses, she should consider a birth control method if she does not wish to become pregnant.

  • Mom gets back into shape faster. Milk production uses 200 - 500 calories per day. The hormone oxytocin causes the uterus to contract back to pre-pregnancy size.

  • Reduced risk of hemorrhaging. Women who breastfeed have high levels of a hormone called oxytocin in their bodies. Oxytocin shrinks the uterus and lessens the flow of blood after childbirth.

  • Breastfeeding emphasizes the purpose of the breast. The breast is a mammary gland, meant to nourish a newborn. When children see a mother and baby breastfeeding, they learn about its real purpose and infant feeding. Women who were self-conscious about the size of their breasts often feel more accepting of their breasts after experiencing breastfeeding.

  • Reduced risk of breast cancer. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the less her risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Peaceful motherly feeling. The hormones present during breastfeeding relax and calm the mother and help her feel more peaceful.

  • Self-esteem. A breastfeeding mother’s success raises her self-esteem. Breastfeeding is something special that only the mother can do for her baby.

  • Extra WIC benefits. Non-breastfeeding mothers are only eligible to receive six months of postpartum WIC benefits. Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to receive up to a year of postpartum benefits. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed (receive no WIC formula for their infants) receive an Enhanced Food Package which includes more WIC milk, juice, both peanut butter and beans, plus tuna and carrots.


Benefits for Baby

  • Human milk is made for human babies. Human milk contains all the nutrients that a newborn needs and is more easily digested and assimilated than any other infant food. Each mammal’s milk is made specific for that mammal’s needs. (Humans are the only mammals that drink another mammal’s milk!) Human milk cannot be duplicated. It contains Human Growth Factor, which helps the body grow and develop at the proper rate. Over 100 nutrients and other ingredients have been identified in human milk; each one meets an important need of the baby. There are components in human milk that still have not been identified and will never be put in human milk substitutes.

  • Colostrum is the perfect first food. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish fluid that begins to form in the breasts during the 16th week of pregnancy. The infant gets colostrum for the first two to three days and then the colostrum mixes with mature milk for about two weeks before disappearing. Colostrum has a very high concentration of antibodies and the perfect balance of nutrients for a newborn. It also has a laxative effect, which helps clean out the first stool where bilirubin is stored. If bilirubin is not excreted quickly, it is reabsorbed and causes infant jaundice.

  • Less sickness and disease. Perhaps the most spectacular advantage of human milk is its protection against disease. Colostrum and mature milk contain living white cells that kill bacteria and produce antibodies. Breastfed babies have fewer colds, ear infections, and less digestive and respiratory problems, and if they do get sick, it is less severe. The protection breastfeeding offers lasts a lifetime; babies who are breastfed are healthier throughout childhood and adulthood. Live antibodies decrease when colostrum or mature milk are frozen or heated but not enough to reduce the advantages of breastfeeding.

  • Human milk helps with brain growth. Human milk contains taurine, an amino acid that is essential for brain growth. The human brain grows more during the first year than the rest of life. The head circumference increases three inches during the first year; it takes 15 years for it to grow another three inches. Studies show that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests and on standardized school tests. Children who are breastfed for several months read sooner and have fewer learning disabilities.

  • Better response to vaccines. Studies have found that some immunizations produce a better response in babies who are breastfed. Breastfed babies follow the recommended timetable for immunizations.

  • Human milk changes as the baby grows. Preterm milk is higher in fat and immunities than full-term milk. Colostrum is replaced by mature milk during the first few days. Protein and fat content vary during each feeding, the time of day, and the age of the baby. The levels of immunity increase after six months to give added protection as the baby is exposed to more of the outside world.

  • Fewer allergies and colic. Formula fed infants develop the highest percentage of allergies. The longer a baby is breastfed; the less likely allergies are to develop. The main antibody in human milk is Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which kills bacteria and coats the baby’s intestines so that foreign allergy proteins cannot enter the baby’s system. A baby will not be allergic to human milk, but occasionally some babies react to the protein from cow’s milk or to another food the mother has eaten. Some babies are allergic to many types of formulas.

  • Human milk is easier to digest because of the whey protein it contains. It has a lower level of most minerals including calcium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium than cow’s milk or formula. This is an advantage because there is less waste for the baby to excrete. Since human milk is almost completely digested, the stools are thinner (more watery) and do not have a foul odor.

  • Protection against diarrhea and constipation. Exclusively breastfed babies do not normally get constipation or diarrhea. If a breastfed baby's stool is loose, has an odor, and there are other symptoms of illness, then the baby's loose stool may be diarrhea. Certain vitamin supplements may cause constipation.

  • Less diaper rash and skin problems. Breastfed baby’s stools are less irritating to the baby’s skin. Eczema is less common and milder in breastfed babies.

  • Better jaw and teeth formation. Breastfeeding uses more muscles and encourages proper facial development. Infants who are breastfed tend to have straighter teeth. Breast milk does not decay teeth because it does not collect around the teeth of a sleeping baby.

  • Less risk of obstructive airway disease in adulthood. Artificial nipples put pressure on the palate and change the shape of the mouth, putting upward pressure and decreasing the sinus cavity. This leads to sleep apnea in adulthood. A baby’s mouth was not meant to mold to the shape of a hard object. The breast molds to the shape of baby’s mouth.

  • Fewer speech problems. Sucking on a bottle nipple may cause the baby’s tongue to thrust forward, creating future speech problems.

  • Better eye coordination. The distance between the breastfed baby’s eyes and the mother’s face is ideal for newborn focus. Breastfed babies use both eyes equally because they are moved from side to side.

  • Less risk of obesity. A breastfed baby learns to eat to hunger and control his own intake from the start. Weight problems associated with encouraging a baby to “finish the bottle” can be avoided.

  • Good taste. Human milk is sweeter and tastes better than formula. Studies have shown that newborns prefer the taste and smell of their own mother’s milk. The flavor of human milk changes with the variety of foods the mother eats. This makes the transition to table foods easier for the baby. Babies feed more when mothers eat garlic!

  • Emotional health. While being breastfed, the baby is held close to the mother. The baby hears the mother’s heartbeat and feels secure. When the infant’s needs are met, he can become secure and independent. Babies learn to love by attaching to one main caregiver first. They then expand their circle of attachment and learn to trust and love others.

  • Less risk of SIDS. Studies have shown that breastfed babies are less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Benefits for the Family and Society

  • Safe for the environment. Breastfeeding takes nothing form the environment. Breastfeeding does not pollute with discarded materials. Formula is packed in cans and the cans are shipped in cartons. All of these materials need to be discarded. It takes 140,000 pounds of metal to make the cans to contain the formula for 3 million formula fed babies. No production animals, feed, or machinery is needed. Formula production is big business. It requires millions of acres for growing feed for cows or soy plants. Milk based formulas require large herds of feed animals. Machinery is used to plant and harvest crops and make the formula.

  • No energy is used. Energy is used to refrigerate and heat formula; it is used during the production of formula and for shipping it to the stores.

  • Child spacing. Exclusive breastfeeding, including night feeding, for six months provides child spacing with 98% effectiveness.

  • Financial savings for the government. Besides the cost of formula, there is also an increase in medical costs because formula fed babies get sick more often than do breastfed babies.

  • Less child abuse. Breastfed babies are less likely to be victims of child abuse. In societies with high breastfeeding rates, there is closer mother-infant bonding and less child abuse.

Back to Breastfeeding Support Page


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Last Modified: Tuesday, 07-Oct-14 12:12:49