8 minute read
Even though your body naturally produces milk to feed and nourish your new baby… Deciding whether you should breastfeed is not always as simple as it may seem.
You may be anxious if you’re doing things right or not. Or you may be worried that breastfeeding will be really painful or complicated… And the painful breastfeeding stories you’ve heard from your mom friends haven’t helped to calm your nerves.
Your mind is full of questions…“Is breastfeeding really worth it? Will I even be able to do it? How will I know if I’m doing it right?”
You’re not sure what to believe or how to move forward.
As a birth doula, I’ve helped so many expecting parents navigate these same confusing questions about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding comes with tons of benefits for you and your baby – but so does formula. Getting the facts ahead of time can help you come up with your own plan. That way you can let go of any stress and anxiety around how you’d like to feed your little one and be confident about your plan. Let’s dive in!
Breastfeeding Benefit 1: A Breastfed Baby Gets All The Nutrients They Need
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Your breast milk is literally the perfect food for your baby. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients as well as other ingredients that help your baby grow healthy and strong. It true, there are lots of great formula options out there. But, your breast milk has immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that scientists have yet to replicate.
In fact, your breast milk changes as your baby grows. If your baby has certain illnesses or if you are exposed to an illness, your breastmilk will pass antibodies on to your baby to help them through it.
And, your breastmilk will be different mornings and night. In the evening it will have more serotonin and other nutrients to help your little one sleep. Not to mention it will change over the months as your baby grows. Pretty cool right?
Your body is pretty amazing when you think about it. It is the ideal way to supply your child with the perfect source of nutrition. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your little one until they are six months old. But it’s also encouraged to keep breastfeeding until your child’s first birthday – and beyond, if you choose.
PS – nursing for a year does mean you will need comfortable bras in this time. Kindred Bravely has a fun little quiz to help you find the right fitting bra as your breasts have likely grown and changed during pregnancy. If you’re curious, go find your perfect match.
Breastfeeding Benefit 2: Breastfeeding Benefits For Your Baby’s Health
The #1 reason moms breastfeed is because it can be so good for your babies health. As a new mom holding your sweet bundle of joy in your arms…You want to do everything in your power to provide for your baby’s needs and set them up for a happy, healthy life.
Breastfeeding is an important way (though not the only way) you can feed your newborn. Nursing has many benefits for your baby’s health:
- Has all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your baby needs: Your body makes breast milk specifically for your baby and the composition of your milk actually changes as your little one grows to adapt to their nutritional needs.
- Promotes a healthy digestive system: Your breast milk is easier to digest than formula. This may help prevent gas and colic. Breastfed babies are also less likely to experience constipation, an upset stomach or diarrhea.
- Strengthens your baby’s immune system: Nursing allows you to pass along the protective qualities of your more mature immune system to your baby. Your breast milk strengthens their immune system. It does this by providing a variety of nutritional components, antioxidants, enzymes, immune properties, and live antibodies that you’ve gained throughout your life.
- Boosts your baby’s IQ: Studies have shown that exclusively breastfeeding for a longer period of time helps your baby’s brain develop…even leading to a higher verbal IQ!
- Lower risk of certain diseases and infection: A stronger immune system helps your baby to fight off viruses and bacteria that they are exposed to. Breastfed babies can still get sick. In general, they typically experience fewer ear infections, colds, and respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and whooping cough.
- Less illness and hospitalization: With all the extra antibodies your baby is receiving from nursing, your baby will be better protected from illness and disease. Breastfed babies experience less illness overall and less hospitalization.
- Lower risk of developing other conditions later in life: Breastfeeding can provide protection against conditions like asthma, allergies, obesity, and type 1 and 2 diabetes.
Breastfeeding Benefit 3: Breastfeeding Can Be Safer For Baby
If you’re a new parent, you may wake up to any little noise your baby makes…just to make sure they’re ok.
You want your little one to be as safe as possible. And the good news is that there are many ways you can protect your baby — breastfeeding being one of them!
Studies have shown that breastfeeding helps to protect against infant mortality in big ways. One way is that breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Though extremely rare, SIDS is the 4th leading cause of death for infants. This is why you’ll want to do all that you can to protect your little one.
Another important ways to reduce the risk of SIDS is to make sure they aren’t exposed to any second hand smoke.
If you’re concerned about SIDS, carefully considering where your baby will sleep and if they will room in with you or not is another important decision that could potentially be linked to SIDS and help you get through your postpartum recovery.
Breastfeeding Benefit 4: Breastfeeding Provides Important Bonding Time
After nine months of waiting, is there anything more wonderful than holding your new baby in your arms?
You may have heard how the “golden hour” — those magical first sixty minutes with your baby — can create a strong bond between you and your little one. Research has shown that this bonding is crucial for your baby’s growth and development.
When you hold your baby skin-to-skin, it’s easier to establish breastfeeding. This physical touch boosts your levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps breast milk flow and helps you feel calm.
Moms who are able to hold baby skin to skin during the “golden hour” are more likely to breastfeed over an extended period of time.
Physical contact with your baby also helps them adjust to life “outside” the womb! Feeling the warmth of your skin and hearing the beating of your heart help to make your little one feel safe, warm, secure, and loved.
Compared with babies who are swaddled or kept in a crib, babies who are regularly held skin-to-skin stay warmer and calmer, cry less, and have healthier blood sugar levels.
On the other hand – when babies are bottle fed either with breastmilk or formula – other caregivers, such as dad or grandma are able to enjoy the sweet bonding time as well.
As with many choices in life – the right decision for your family depends a lot on, well, you.
Breastfeeding Benefit 5: Breastfeeding Helps Mom Have a Smoother Postpartum Recovery
Learning how to take care of your baby…getting used to your role as a mom…healing, physically and emotionally, from childbirth… Those first few weeks with your newborn can be quite an adjustment!
Breastfeeding can help make the transition a little easier and even make your postpartum recovery smoother! That’s because nursing your little one produces oxytocin and prolactin. These naturally soothing hormones help you to feel happier and less stressed!
But that said, the first few weeks home with a baby can be overwhelming. Many moms struggle the first week of breastfeeding. Usually, everything is smoothed out and simple by week two or three.
For many moms, working through these days and all those baby snuggles helps to increase your confidence and self esteem…All good things, especially if you want to avoid the “baby blues” and postpartum depression.
Plus, breastfeeding gives your uterus a helping hand in returning to its pre-pregnancy size by stimulating your uterus to contract. It also reduces your postpartum bleeding and promotes faster weight loss after birth.
Breastfeeding Benefit 6: Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom’s Long Term Health
What’s even more amazing than the short-term benefits that breastfeeding offers mothers…are the long-term benefits!
Simply by nursing your baby, you’ll lower your risk for breast and ovarian cancer along with other conditions and diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cardiovascular disease.
Women who breastfed may also have higher bone density and lower rates of osteoporosis later in life.
In this picture, you can see a mom is pumping – this is another way to give your baby your own breastmilk in case you want to share the work of feeding or are going back.
The great news is, that a breast pump is usually free through your insurance. Head over to the Breastfeeding Shop, find the pink button at the top of the page, enter your insurance information, and they will tell you which pumps your insurance covers.
Breastfeeding Benefit 7: Breastfeeding Can Save Your Family Money
On top of the health benefits for you and your little one, breastfeeding is also helpful if you’re on a budget! Breast milk is free — but the cost of infant formula can quickly add up…
On average, families spend $1,200 — $1,500 a year on formula. But depending on how much your baby eats and what brand you choose, you could be looking at spending closer to 3K!
If you need help with the costs, look into government programs. Programs such as WIC help make sure every baby has the food they need.
As a bonus, breastfed babies may also be sick less often, which can help keep your health costs low.
But, one thing I want to mention, is that the first weeks feeding a baby, you are dedicating close to 40 hours a week just nursing your baby. So even if breastfeeding is less expensive than formula, your food costs and time costs matter too.
If you have a hard time establishing your milk supply, make sure to read our article about boosting your milk supply naturally.
Breastfeeding Benefit 8: Breastfeeding Can Be Convenient For Mom And Baby
Breastfeeding is also a simple option for busy parents. Breast milk is warm and ready to go whenever your baby is hungry! With no bottles to heat up and no formula to measure and mix…opting to breastfeed can save you precious time in your already packed schedule.
This can make nighttime feedings much simpler and faster and also makes traveling with your little one a breeze.
Sometimes pumping and having a breastmilk stash or letting dad formula feed at night can help you have balance in the middle of your breastfeeding journey.
But, don’t be surprised if breastfeeding come with a learning curve. If you took a childbirth course that didn’t cover breastfeeding, consider taking an affordable class like Milkology. Or – if you haven’t taken a childbirth course yet, take one that teaches about breastfeeding as well.
Breastfeeding Benefit 9: Breastfeeding Is Also Good For The Earth
I also like to mention that breastfeeding is eco-friendly! Nursing produces zero garbage, minimal greenhouse gases, and a negligible water footprint.
On the other hand, the production and distribution of formula requires energy to manufacture, materials for packaging, fuel for transport, and water and energy for daily preparation. Plus, dairy cows, which are raised in part to make infant formula, are a significant contributor to global warming.
You also have all the bottles, nipples, pumps, and packages for infant formula which require energy to create and often aren’t biodegradable…which can pollute our rivers and oceans.
If you want to do your part to help take care of the planet…one of the amazing breastfeeding benefits is that nursing is easy on the environment!
Challenges Of Breastfeeding:
Although there are many benefits of breastfeeding, there are also some challenges involved. It’s worth weighing the pros and cons as you decide what’s right for you and your baby. Here’s a look at the 10 main challenges you may face along your breastfeeding journey:
- You may feel discomfort, particularly during the first few days or weeks.
- It can be difficult for you and your baby to learn how to breastfeed.
- There isn’t a way to measure exactly how much your baby is eating. But generally speaking, if they are having wet and poopy diapers, you can be confident they are getting enough.
- You’ll need to watch your medication use, caffeine, and alcohol intake. Some of these substances that go into your body are passed to your baby through your milk.
- You’ll need more calories and water to keep up with your milk production.
- You’ll also need to watch your diet — your baby may have a reaction to different foods that you eat.
- Any stress you experience can impact your milk production, making breastfeeding more challenging.
- Newborns eat frequently. Keeping up with a feeding schedule may be difficult if you need to return to work or run errands.
- Your partner can’t help with feedings — unless you pump extra milk for bottle feedings.
- The first weeks of breastfeeding can be rough on your breasts. While you figure out a good latch and your body adjusts to nursing, you may have sore nipples -but with a good cream and a good latch, this will go away quickly.
Breastfeeding Key Takeaway:
The benefits that breastfeeding brings you, your baby, and even the earth are pretty huge. YOU may also come to love the sweet, intimate moments you get to spend nursing your little one.
But even with all the advantages — There are reasons you may not want to breastfeed. And that’s ok!
How you feed your baby is YOUR decision. Do what’s best for you and your family and remember…there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.
The breastfeeding benefits go on and on and on. In fact, collecting your first milk, called colostrum can also have benefits fo you and your baby. Learn how to express colostrum before birth in our guide. You will see that even before your baby is born, there are incredible benefits for you and baby.
A Childbirth Class Can Help Empower You To Successfully Breastfeed Your Baby
If you’re expecting, you may be wondering how you can set yourself up for a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
Books with simple illustrations and YouTube videos with knitted boobs just aren’t doing the trick. You want to know how to get a proper latch and when you can start using a bottle so other family members can participate in baby feeding.
Most childbirth courses focus on preparing you for birth, but not how to care for your baby once they’ve arrived!
My childbirth course, Birth Undone, will not only give you the confidence to create a powerful, unforgettable birth experience…You’ll learn the in’s and out’s of newborn care — including breastfeeding benefits and how to be successful nursing your baby!
This class is designed to answer your questions about nursing, address your concerns head-on and empower you to feed your little one with ease. Check it out today!