The benefits of breastfeeding just keep rolling in. You may already know that 'breast is best' when it comes to the health of your baby. Research shows that breast milk has nutrients in it that strengthen a baby's immune system, which is extremely important for our little cuties.
Think of your immune system as your body's army. When another country even thinks about attacking America, we send our troops to meet them to the shores, boarders and invisible airways of our country to stop them. Sometimes, we even have to kill others to prevent them from hurting us.
Your immune system acts in the same way. Any time bacteria gets into your body and tries to take over your organs, which could result in some type of infection, your immune system sends cells to meet and destroy the bacteria before the little buggers affect too much of you.
Having a strong immune system is important for everyone; however, it is extremely important to our vulnerable populations (i.e., babies, older people, and those who may have physical difficulties or chronic illnesses). Unfortunately, a baby's immune system is hard at work nearly every waking moment because almost everything that they encounter goes into the pie hole.
Aside from a healthy immune system, research has connected breastfed babies to having higher IQs, lower rates of obesity as they develop and less ear infections. Also, breastfeeding offers bonding time between mom and baby, which hugely important for attachment.
There's more great news! Breastfeeding has been linked to lower rates of a number of diseases in moms too! Moms who breastfed for at least six months were found to have lower rates of heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes. If you are a young woman with a history of cancer in your family, you may want to seriously weigh the benefits and drawbacks of breastfeeding.
As a mom of two boys who were breastfed for six months, the biggest drawback that I found was that no one else could feed my little ones. Breastfeeding can get draining, so with my first son, who ate every two hours for the first four weeks of his life, his pediatrician suggested that I incorporate pumping once per day (when he was three weeks old) and let my husband feed him. This gave me a four-hour break every evening. I would breastfeed at 6 p.m. and then immediately pump. Then my husband would feed him at 8 p.m. from a bottle and I didn't have to feed from the breast again until 10 p.m. What a relief! However, you should be careful about incorporating a bottle too early because it can confuse some little ones.
Interestingly, I ran a weekly psycho-educational group for pregnant women for about one year and the one perk to breastfeeding that really got my pregnant ladies excited is that your menstrual cycle doesn't start back up until you are done breastfeeding. Therefore, you can extend your menstrual cycle break from 40 weeks (during pregnancy) to 64 weeks (40 weeks of pregnancy plus 24 weeks of breastfeeding).
The list of benefits to breastfeeding keeps growing for babies and moms, so carefully consider your feeding plan.