Benefits Of Breastfeeding : Everything You Need To Know

Breastfeeding is known to have many benefits for both baby and mom. Read to find out more about how breastfeeding can help you and your mini-me!
benefits of breastfeeding

When you’re an expecting or new mom, how to feed your baby is a one of things at the forefront of your mind. You might ask yourself, “What are the benefits of breastfeeding my baby? Is breastfeeding better than bottle feeding?” There are many benefits to breastfeeding your baby. Natures way to ensure your little one has everything they need to thrive also offers other advantages.

As the mom of a wonderful little one, I know first-hand the benefits of breastfeeding. So do the CDC and the Cleveland Clinic.

Keep reading if you’d like to know more about the benefits of breastfeeding for both moms and babies.

What Are The Immediate Benefits Of Breastfeeding For My Baby?

Breastfed babies may gain health benefits

You may or may not be surprised to learn that breastfeeding is valuable for your baby right the time you do it.

When you’re pregnant, you are exposed to all sorts of germs, just like you are when you aren’t pregnant. Your body builds up antibodies to prevent you from getting sick. Your breast milk has these antibodies and transmits them to your baby when you nurse them. That gives your little one boosted immunity against the diseases you encountered during pregnancy.

Your antibodies aren’t the only things keeping your baby safe and healthy, though. You’ve also got all sorts of enzymes (elements that speed up vital chemical reactions in the body) and antioxidants in your breast milk. Not only that, but the nutrients from what you eat enter your milk, too. All of that means that your baby benefits from your good health during pregnancy.

But what precisely can you expect to see in terms of your baby’s health? You can expect things like:

  • Fewer colds and fewer cases of respiratory diseases like whooping cough and pneumonia;
  • A lowered risk of asthma;
  • A healthier GI tract that’s less prone to things like diarrhea;
  • Reduced risk of bacterial meningitis;
  • Less likelihood of retinopathy of prematurity (internal eye scarring) and better eyesight overall; [1]
  • Better dental health compared to non-breastfed babies;
  • A lowered risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and general infant death;
  • Fewer trips to the hospital due to illness; and
  • A better immune system in general.

That’s not all: your breast milk has chemical compounds that help relax your baby. That means that not only will your baby be healthy, but they’ll be peaceful, too. 

What Are The Long Term Benefits Of Breastfeeding My Baby?

Now you know how breastfeeding helps your baby in the moment. Let’s look at how it helps down the road. 

Like I said before, breastfeeding boosts your baby’s immune system, and those benefits last forever. Also, your child is going to have better health in general if they don’t contract life-threatening illnesses as a baby.

That’s not all, though. There are multiple benefits of breastfeeding that you can see later on in your child’s life. Some of them include:

  • A decreased risk of developing certain autoimmune diseases, like lupus and arthritis;
  • A lowered likelihood of developing multiple sclerosis;
  • Less chance of developing heart disease; and
  • A reduced chance of developing ovarian and breast cancer during and after menopause.

Of course, breastfeeding is not a silver bullet against any ailment. While the research shows breastfeeding is an effective preventative measure against many health issues, you need to consider other factors. Case in point: if you have a family history of heart disease, breastfeeding won’t magically reverse that. 

Always talk to your baby’s pediatrician (and, if needed, your doctor) about any concerns you have about your baby’s short-term or long-term health.

What Are The Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Me?

Moms also benefit from breastfeeding

Discussions of the benefits of breastfeeding can tend to focus on the baby’s health. That’s a crucial aspect of things, naturally! However, the benefits of breastfeeding don’t stop with the child. Breastfeeding is also incredibly beneficial to moms!

How so? There’s a couple of ways. One way is that it supports mothers’ physical health. For instance, nursing moms will:

  • Likely experience less postpartum bleeding than non-nursing moms;
  • Have a lower risk of anemia;
  • Experience urinary tract infections less frequently; and
  • Have their uteri return to their usual sizes more quickly.

Another way breastfeeding benefits moms is that it boosts their mental and emotional health. When a mother nurses her baby, her body releases chemicals called prolactin and oxytocin. These chemicals reduce stress and make the mother feel good. Indeed, breastfeeding moms are likely to feel more confident and have more self-esteem compared to non-breastfeeding moms.

Prolactin and oxytocin are significant players in mothers’ psychological wellbeing while breastfeeding. They’re not the only factors, though! For instance, consider that breastfed babies cry less frequently than non-breastfed babies. That’ll make a mom feel at ease! 

There’s also the fact that breastfeeding gives you close contact with your baby. Because of this, breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your new child. That’ll make you both feel good right away and provide a basis for good behavior and social health for your baby in the long run. Life’s generally more comfortable when your child isn’t getting into trouble all the time. 

What If I Can’t Breastfeed My Baby?

It is not the end of the world if you are unable to breastfeed!

Remember: The most important thing is that your baby is being well fed – whether that is via breast, bottle or other means.

Social Pressures

In many societies around the world moms feel a pressure to breastfeed. However, some moms can’t breastfeed their babies, be it due to problems producing milk, their health conditions, or the health conditions of their babies [2]. Mother’s and baby’s anatomy can also hinder the process. And sometimes, perhaps breastfeeding is just not for you.

Of course, one option is baby formula. That is a very popular decision taken by many moms around the globe. If you want your baby to drink human breast milk though, consider looking to see if there’s a breast milk bank you can access. Trained personnel screen, pool, bottle, and pasteurize breast milk donated by mothers so babies in need can drink it later on [3].

Having a baby can be stressful enough, without having to deal with added pressure from society on how ‘best’ to feed your baby. You can find further great support with this issue, as well as other aspects of motherhood, by visiting the Not Safe For Mom Group.

Remember: Do what is right for you and not what other people expect you to.

Can I Give My Baby Another Woman’s Breast Milk Without Going Through A Milk Bank?

It would be best if you didn’t do that [4]. While the risk of your baby coming down with a severe illness due to another person’s breast milk is small, the CDC does not support this feeding method as a regular thing. If you don’t have access to pasteurized breast milk, you are far better off feeding your baby formula.

What If My Baby Drinks Another Person’s Breast Milk By Accident?

Let’s say you’re picking your baby up from daycare, and the staff tell you they gave your baby the wrong bottle of breast milk. 

Don’t worry. While you shouldn’t be feeding your baby another person’s unpasteurized breast milk regularly, your baby is extremely unlikely to suffer any adverse side effects from a one-off accident. This includes cases where the milk somehow comes from an HIV-positive mother (though the CDC indicates HIV-positive mothers should not breastfeed).

If your baby has been fed someone else’s breast milk by accident, the caretakers should advise you of all the details they have about what happened. You should share this information with your baby’s pediatrician to be completely safe.

Can I Breastfeed My Baby If I Have COVID-19?

The novel coronavirus has brought on a lot of new concerns for people. Don’t fret, though: breastfeeding is still safe [5]. The World Health Organization says you almost certainly won’t make your baby sick that way—and that all of the other benefits of breastfeeding still stand.  

How Do I Store Breast Milk For Personal Use?

Breast milk can be expressed and stored for later use

You might want to store your breast milk for any number of reasons [6]. (For instance, as we saw above, you might send your baby to daycare, and you might want them to have your breast milk for feeding times.) Here’s a quick overview of the CDC’s storage guidelines:

Counter

  • Temperature: 77ºF (25ºC) or lower
  • Fresh milk can stay out for up to four hours; thawed milk should only stay out an hour or two

Fridge

  • Temperature: 40°F (~4ºC)
  • You can store fresh milk for up to four days and thawed milk for one day

Freezer

  • Temperature: 0°F (~ -18ºC) or lower
  • You can store fresh milk for up to twelve months, though six months is ideal

The CDC stresses that you should “NEVER refreeze human milk after it has been thawed.”

If your baby does not finish their bottle, you must use the remaining milk within two hours of the feeding.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article has helped you to see the benefits of breastfeeding. As you can tell, breastfeeding is beneficial on many levels. It’s excellent for your baby’s health during the breastfeeding stage, their health in later childhood and beyond, and your health as a mother. 

If you can’t breastfeed though don’t worry! You do have options open to you, such as formula and milk banks. You should check out our article on breastfeeding vs formula if you need more information.

Remember, don’t give your child someone else’s unpasteurized breast milk on purpose, but don’t worry if your little one drinks a bit by accident. If you choose to, you can safely store your breast milk for later use.

Now that you know the facts about the benefits of breastfeeding, I hope you feel empowered to make the best decision for you and your baby.  Always consult with your medical team if you have any questions or concerns.

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