The Absolutely Amazing Health Benefits Of Breastfeeding

I didn’t know much about the benefits of breastfeeding before I became a mom, but I knew nursing was something I wanted to try, and I’m so glad I did. I’m currently breastfeeding my second daughter (after an 18-month run with Baby #1!) and I feel like I learn new, amazing things about the benefits of breastfeeding all the time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk as the sole source of nutrition for infants up to six months of age, and encourages breastfeeding in conjunction with food after for at least the first year. Why? Keep reading to learn all about the awesome benefits of breastfeeding for both your baby and you.

1. Breastmilk is the ideal nutrition for infants. It contains the perfect balance of everything babies need to grow and develop healthfully: fat, carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. In fact, there are more than 200 known beneficial components of breastmilk and more currently being studied.

2. It’s easier to digest than formula, meaning less constipation and gas (which can lead to uncomfortable, fussy babies). This is due to the balance of whey and casein; breastmilk contains higher volumes of whey which is an easier protein to digest.

3. Breastmilk reduces the risk of infection in babies. Breastmilk contains antibodies to help prevent infectious and chronic diseases. Breastfeeding can help prevent ear infections in infants and toddlers, as well as asthma, allergies, and even obesity in childhood. It can also make sick babies better faster; new research suggests that a mom’s body can sense illness in the baby from its saliva while nursing, and thus produces extra, infection-fighting antibodies for the next feed.

4. …As well as chronic illnesses for both mother and child. Breastfeeding helps babies avoid obesity the long-term health problems associated with it, like diabetes. Another benefit of breastfeeding is that both mother and baby are less likely to develop lupus, heart disease, and breast cancer; and nursing moms are also less likely to develop ovarian cancerosteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

5. Breastmilk is a brain booster. In fact, it’s been proven to promote cognitive development. Studies link breastfeeding with higher test scores, IQ ratings, and white matter in the brain (This is the part of the brain responsible for complex cognitive tasks like language, willpower, and empathy).

6. It’s great for your bond. Of course babies will feel secure in Mommy’s arms, and many nurse for comfort. But science now shows that one of the benefits of breastfeeding is bonding and security on the mother’s end as well: the actual act of baby’s suckling releases the “love hormone” (oxytocin), making moms feel affection, love, and trust toward their infants.

7. Breastfeeding may help reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. While Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is not preventable, there are steps you can take that seem to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding is at the top of this list, along with safe sleep precautions.

8. Nursing burns extra calories. Breastfeeding is a great way to help lose the weight from your pregnancy as you burn about 500 extra calories a day producing milk for your baby.

9. Breastfeeding also helps contract the uterus after delivery. These contractions  help pull the abs in (who doesn’t want their midsection to shrink faster?), but even more importantly, they help prevent postpartum hemorrhaging.

10. You might not get a period for several months. A break from your period is always a welcome thing, but there’s a medical benefit as well: Breastfeeding mothers are thus likelier to conserve iron in their bodies than bottle-feeding moms (who often get a period closer to the 6- to 8-week mark). You can still get pregnant while breastfeeding though, so unless you’re ready for another baby right away, be sure to use birth control!

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