There are a whole host of reasons to breastfeed. One of the first decisions a new mom makes is whether or not to breastfeed her baby. You might even decide before you have the baby!
When I had my first baby, I knew I wanted to breastfeed I just didn’t know WHY.
It wasn’t until we seriously struggled that I decided to look into all the reasons to breastfeed.
Here’s what I found (and some things I’ve learned since becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor).
Reason #1 To Breastfeed: It’s Natural!
Breastfeeding is what women have been doing for thousands of years! It’s the main source of nutrition for most babies after birth throughout the world and throughout time.
Breastfeeding has always brought comfort along with nutrition.
The only thing your baby really needs after birth are your breasts! They are warm, comforting, and provide food. Breastfeeding is something we are made to do!
It’s our instinct to feed our babies. And God gave us a way to do it that only we can. It feels right, and it’s the most natural way to nourish our little ones.
Breastfeeding Reason #2: Baby’s Nutrition
One of my favorite ways to explain the benefits of breast milk is to mention formula.
Formula companies are constantly doing research and trying to make their formula….
MORE LIKE BREAST MILK!
That’s a great reason to breastfeed your baby because you will be sure they’re getting the best. It’s closer than the formula companies will ever get. (That being said, feeding your baby is the most important thing. Formula is absolutely the next best option to breast milk).
Take a look at the ingredients in breast milk compared to the ingredients in formula:
Crazy right? If you want a more detailed list, click here for the original study.
Breast milk has over 200 known beneficial components and researchers are constantly finding more! This tops the list of reasons to breastfeed your baby.
Let’s talk about some of those components.
Breast milk has numerous growth factors, over 20 different kinds! The growth factors help your baby’s intestinal lining mature to prepare for adult life and solid food down the road.
Your baby will double their birth weight by around 4 months of life and triple it by one year… they need those growth factors!
Hormones are the messengers that carry signals from one part of your body to another. They are essential for almost every body process, from sleeping to temperature regulation! Pregnant and postpartum moms will tell you that even though you can’t see hormones, they are always there!
Hormones can make you go from laughing to crying in an instant. They also ensure that every other bodily process is running correctly.
You pass hormones to your baby through breast milk. Your baby receives thyroid hormones in your milk to regulate their body’s functions. Your milk also transfers oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone to your baby, enhancing the love and bonding they share with mom.
Your breast milk contains over 20 different hormones.
How many hormones does formula have in it? That’s right… none!
Here is the science geek in me talking. Your breast milk actually contains 13 different nucleotides (I didn’t even know there WERE that many)!
What are nucleotides?
Well, your body is made up of bazillions of tiny cells, molecules called DNA and RNA. They are the “building blocks” for everything in our body! And DNA and RNA molecules are made up of…. nucleotides!
You actually give your baby nucleotides when you breastfeed them! That’s so cool! You’re giving your baby the building blocks they need to grow.
Other positive outcomes for baby
Breastfed babies get sick less than babies that aren’t breastfed. This could be attributed to the immunological properties found in breast milk, and it’s a great reason to breastfeed! Less trips to the pediatrician and less time with a stuffy, sick baby are definitely positives.
Digesting breast milk is easier that digesting formula. Breastfed babies poop is very mild smelling, and fairly unoffensive. This is because breast milk is made for their tummy and makes digesting easier.
Face muscles develop more fully when breastfeeding versus using a bottle. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with formula or a bottle. But, it’s been shown that babies who breastfeed use their facial muscles in a different way. It causes the muscles in the face, jaw, tongue and throat to develop more fully than babies that don’t breastfeed.
Breastfeeding moms have less need to worry about baby allergies. It’s true that some allergens can pass through breast milk. However, it’s still much better protection than an allergen in formula. For example, if your baby is allergic to cow’s milk, they will have a much milder reaction to breast milk after mom drank cow’s milk than if they were to be given formula made completely from cow’s milk.
Mom’s Health: Reason #3 To Breastfeed Your Baby!
Okay moms, let’s talk about YOU for a while!
There are countless reasons for a mom to breastfeed for her own health.
In the period directly after birth, breastfeeding can have amazing positive effects.
When you breastfeed your baby, oxytocin is released. This is the “feel good” hormone and it helps increase bonding between you and your nursing baby. But it does more than that!
Oxytocin is the same hormone that causes your uterus to contract during labor. It continues to make your uterus contract after birth, and is released by your baby nursing.
When your baby nurses, you may feel your uterus tightening. This is GOOD! It means that your uterus is starting to shrink back to it’s normal, pre-birth size. And while that’s exciting, it keeps getting better!
Ocytocin release and uterus contractions result in reduced postpartum blood loss. That means breastfeeding your baby gives you a lower chance of hemorrhage and bleeding. It’s one of the many miracles of the human body.
You probably guessed I’d bring this up.
Weight loss is a FANTASTIC benefit for breastfeeding moms. The average amount of calories burned per day by breastfeeding is 700! Some women burn more than that…. and can you imagine how many calories a mom breastfeeding twins burns?
But there’s something especially cool about breastfeeding weight loss.
Not only does it help you get back to pre-pregnancy weight (or close to it!), but the way it works is pretty incredible.
When your baby breastfeeds, your milk contains fat. Your baby needs fat in order to grow and thrive. In fact, it’s one of the most important parts of breast milk and where a majority of their calories comes from.
Your breasts actually squeeze fat out while your baby nurses. They contract (what you feel during a let-down) and bring fat from your breasts and into your milk. This is one of the reasons your breasts might not be as “perky” after breastfeeding.
But your breast milk also gets fat from other places in your body.
Think about all the places your body stores fat. Your thighs, your abdomen, your hips, etc…
Your body actually pulls fat from your body’s fat stores, brings it to your breasts via your blood stream, and puts the fat (that your baby NEEDS) right into your breast milk!
Breastfeeding literally takes the fat right off of you! It’s amazing.
Periods and Hormones
Another reason to breastfeed is because it prolongs the return of your period!
When you breastfeed, your hormones are in flux and different than during the times you don’t breastfeed. The hormones that enable milk production also prevent your body from menstruating.
The average time that breastfeeding moms go without a period is 6 months.
But each mom is different! Some moms start menstruating sooner than that, and some later. Women have reported going years without a period while breastfeeding.
And The Final Reason To Breastfeed: It’s Convenient!
Last but not least, one of the biggest reasons to breastfeed is it’s convenient!
If you go out and forget to pack a bottle, no worries! You can rest assured that your baby will be fed no matter where you are as long as you’re together.
It’s also FREE!
Did you know the average price of formula for the first year of a baby’s life is $2,000?! And that doesn’t even include the price of the bottles, cleaning supplies and accessories that go along with formula.
Not to mention… have you ever wanted to get away from a crowd or from visiting guests or family in your home? Well, breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to get away!
If you just need a breather and some solitude for a bit, just say you’re going to go feed the baby!
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.
Did you like this information about all the reasons to breastfeed? Check out these other blog posts about breastfeeding: