8 Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breast milk is readily available and free. Breast milk is the convenient, natural solution for feeding your baby. And, if you’re ever in an emergency situation, i.e. power outage, snow storm, hurricane or other natural disaster, you can still provide your baby with the nutrition needed.
- Breast milk contains more than 200 ingredients designed specifically for your baby. Your breastmilk changes as your baby develops. During the baby’s first days, mom produces colostrum, which is thick and enriched with nutrients to help your baby’s digestive system grow and function. As your baby matures, the composition of your milk changes to match your baby’s needs. When suckling at the breast, your baby tells your body what it needs to make for them.
- Breastfed babies have fewer visits to the doctor or hospital with less severe ear, breathing and stomach infections. Human milk provides your baby with antibodies that guard against a number of illnesses, and breastfeeding can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Babies also digest breast milk easily and have less incidence of gastroesophageal reflux.
- Full skin-to-skin contact with baby on mom’s bare chest helps increase milk production. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that babies who have skin-to-skin contact naturally seek mom’s breast, and this interaction, in turn, helps the mom release the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which increase mom’s milk supply.
- The hormone oxytocin, released during nursing, promotes feelings of love and closeness between mom and baby. In addition to helping increase milk production, oxytocin reduces stress for both mom and baby, helping the baby transition to postnatal life.
- Breastfeeding can help mom lose pregnancy weight. Studies show that women who breastfeed, especially from 3 to 6 months, lose more weight than women who don’t. Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day. Be sure to maintain a nutritious diet to take in enough calories to keep you and your baby healthy, and listen to your body when it craves water — 64 ounces (or 8 cups) a day.
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer in women who breastfeed longer than a year. Because women have fewer menstrual cycles while pregnant and then again while breastfeeding, they have lower estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels are linked to an increase in breast cancer. Breastfeeding also helps prevent ovulation. As you ovulate more often, there’s a greater chance of cells mutating, which can initiate the disease.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of mom developing diabetes, heart disease and brittle bones later in life. A 30-year study showed that women who breastfed had reduced risk of developing diabetes, with more protection the longer they breastfed. Another study indicated that women who breastfed decreased their risk of cardiovascular disease, also with more benefits the longer they breastfed. Although women who breastfeed may lose some bone mass during that time, studies show that mass is regained and that breastfeeding may provide some protection against later in life.
Breastfeeding Is Natural, but Not Always Easy
Breastfeeding offers tremendous benefits, but new moms (and babies) sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to make this feeding system work and need support from their family and healthcare professionals. Fortunately, skilled nurses, pediatricians, obstetricians and certified lactation consultants can provide advice, support and encouragement so you gain confidence in your ability to provide for your baby’s needs.
- Feeding is painful or lasts more than an hour
- Your baby has trouble attaching or maintaining the latch
- Your baby eats less than eight times in 24 hours after the second day
- Your baby is not voiding or stooling
- Your baby is too sleepy to wake for feeds after day two
- Baby never seems satisfied or isn’t gaining weight after day five
The Breastfeeding Education Center at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies offers several services to help new moms, including private lactation consultations and virtual new mom classes, including Prenatal Breastfeeding and a Live Parent Chat support group. It also hosts virtual meetings of the La Leche League, an organization that supports breastfeeding moms.
Are you interested in learning more about breastfeeding?
Our pre-natal breastfeeding class introduces women to breastfeeding basics: the benefits, how breast milk is made, how to know your baby is getting enough milk, helpful techniques, prevention and treatment of common breastfeeding problems, and the pumping, collecting and storing of breast milk.Register Today