21 Amazing Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a personal choice, and it's certainly not for everyone.
But, for those moms who decide to breastfeed—or if you're a mom-to-be and are on the fence about whether you want to breastfeed—there are definitely some really great benefits to consider.
In this guide and infographic, we go over 21 amazing benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby.
Breastfeeding Benefits—The Definitive Guide
Benefits for Baby
Breastfeeding is all about the bond between you and your baby.
Did you know that breastfeeding can help baby fight off viruses and bacteria, that in can play a role in the prevention of SIDS, or that it can lower the risk of certain kinds of cancer?
#1. Breast milk is a superfood.
Breast milk is a superfood that provides all of the essential nutrients needed for baby’s growth and development during the first few months of her life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive oral drops of vitamin D. Adults and babies naturally get vitamin D from the sunlight, but babies are out in the sun less, so they need a supplement.
#2. Breast milk is amazing at fighting off viruses and bacteria.
The antibodies in the milk help reduce respiratory problems, reduce the number of ear infections a baby gets, and defeats bouts of diarrhea. According to Dr. Sears, this is because one drop of human breast milk contains about a million white blood cells.
Each cell is packed with immunities that are passed down through the breastmilk. In the first few days after birth, the breast milk is called colostrum.
It has a thicker consistency and contains higher amounts of white blood cells than the milk that comes in later. Colostrum helps the baby as it becomes exposed to new germs in the world.
#3. Breastfeeding plays a role in the prevention of SIDS.
The act of nursing protects against RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) which causes inflammation of the lungs that is thought to contribute to SIDS, specifically during the first six months of your baby’s life.
According to SIDS and Kids, the latest research shows that breastfeeding decreases instances of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) by 50%.
This research is consistent with other studies that have been conducted over the last 15 years.
#4. Breastfeeding helps you bond with your baby.
When nursing, your baby gets skin to skin contact and makes eye contact, helping them to feel safe and secure, according to WebMD.
Breastfeeding releases hormones in the mother’s body that give you a mothering instinct.
You become in tune with your baby and recognize your baby’s signs that tell your whether your baby is hungry, wet, bored, or unhappy for some other reason.
#5. Breastfeeding offers long-term protection from serious illnesses.
Studies show that babies who were breastfed are less likely to develop serious illnesses later in life, like Type 1 diabetes, Celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.
According to the American Diabetes Association, pregnant women that have gestational diabetes have an increased risk that their child will become diabetic.
One study found that breastfeeding for six months reduced that risk.
#6. Your breast milk was specifically designed for your baby.
While formulas try to replicate the proteins and other enzymes in breast milk, there is nothing like the real thing. It is designed specifically for your baby and their nourishment needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed their infants for at least the first six months after birth.
Breast milk is designed specifically for your baby and their nourishment needs.
They also recommend continuing breastfeeding and supplementing it with solid food at about one year of age. Mayo Clinic calls breastfeeding the gold standard for infant nutrition.
#7. Breastfeeding helps reduce obesity.
Studies have shown that when babies are breastfed they have a lower chance of being severely overweight, especially in toddlerhood and childhood. Baker Chiropractic supports these studies and notes that breastfed babies are leaner than formula fed babies, even in infancy.
Baker also says that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults.
Baker theorizes that breastfed babies better learn to regulate food intake because finishing the last ounce or two is a non-issue.
#8. Breastfed babies have a lower chance of developing some forms of cancer.
According to JAMA Pediatrics, babies who were breastfed were less likely to develop certain kinds of childhood cancers, like leukemia.
Doctors at the University of Haifa, Israel, reviewed 18 studies that discussed the connection between breastfeeding and leukemia.
They found that the risk of leukemia is 19% lower for babies that were breastfed for the first six months of life.
#9. Breastfed babies have higher IQ’s.
A study has shown that babies who nursed had a higher IQ at the age of 30 (about 4 points higher), compared to babies who were formula fed, as reported by CNN.
They were also more proficient verbally.
The researchers were able to follow about 68% of the participants, which is a strong number for a longitudinal study.
#10. Breast milk helps premature babies.
Your breast milk is specifically designed for your child. But, in the case that your child is born premature, your milk adapts to your baby’s needs.
It is richer and higher in essential nutrients to help make your preemie strong and stable. HealthyChildren.org recommends expressing breast milk and feeding your premie by a tube or by a tiny cup or bottle.
It’s perfectly fine to start breastfeeding a little later on when your baby’s sucking reflex is better developed.
Benefits for Mom
While most of the focus around breastfeeding centers around all the wonderful benefits for your baby, the truth is, breastfeeding is just about as beneficial for you, the mom.
From helping you shed those pregnancy pounds faster to getting a lighter period, and saving money on formula to having a lot less the pack when traveling, breastfeeding is definitely something that can benefit you as well.
#11. You lose pregnancy weight faster.
Because you’re burning extra calories when nursing (about 500 extra calories a day), you are more likely to lose the baby weight faster and get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes quicker.
In an article by Women’s Health Magazine, Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D, author of The F-Factor Diet, reminds new mothers that their bodies require a bit of extra energy to create breast milk, so they need to eat a few hundred extra calories a day.
#12. Breastfeeding helps reduce the size of your uterus.
The hormone oxytocin is released while breastfeeding and it shrinks the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size much quicker than if a mom chooses to formula feed.
FitPregnancy.com states that breastfeeding mothers can expect their uteruses to return to normal size in just about six weeks.
This is compared with 10 weeks for non-breastfeeding mothers.
#13. Breastfeeding alleviates postpartum bleeding.
When oxytocin is released during nursing, moms experience less postpartum bleeding, according to studies and physicians across the board.
#14. You get a lighter period (or none at all).
When you breastfeed, because many different hormones are released, your reproductive health is altered, leaving you with no period, or a very light one throughout your cycle.
In an article by Today’s Parent, breastfeeding women can expect their period to return about 20 weeks or sometimes for a year or longer.
This is compared with a non-breastfeeding mother that can expect her first postpartum period at 10 weeks after birth.
#15. Breastfeeding is cost-effective.
Formula can run on average about $18-$30 per can, and the average baby will drink one canister a week. Breastfeeding is free and will save you a bundle!
Check out this article by The Simple Dollar, where they did a comprehensive comparison between the costs of breastfeeding and formula.
Breastfeeding mothers can expect to save about $1733.75 per year feeding their babies.
Breastfeeding mothers can expect to save about $1733.75 per year feeding their babies.
#16. There’s nothing to pack!
Moms who breastfeed can pick up and go, without having to worry about having enough bottles made, and how they are going to keep them cool.
In an article by KidsHealth.org, the author points out the value of convenience for breastfeeding mothers, who don’t have to worry about last minute trips to the store to pick up formula.
#17. Breastfeeding releases hormones.
You can focus on the joy that your child brings you, due to the release of prolactin, which gives you a feeling of peace and happiness.
Oxytocin is also released, which gives moms the sense of love and attachment for their babies.
La Leche League International calls this benefit a well-kept secret.
#18. Breastfeeding moms have strong bones.
Some studies show that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis, which has to do with how the body absorbs calcium more efficiently, making them more dense.
WomensHealth.gov reports that breastfeeding women and their infants should make sure that they get the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
#19. Breastfeeding can decrease cancer.
According to one study of over 1,600 women with breast cancer, breastfeeding moms were 30% less likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer.
CBS News cited the study by Marilyn Kwan, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente division of research in Oakland, California, who also noted that 28% of mothers that previously breastfed had a 28% reduction in cases of death due to breast cancer.
#20. Breastfeeding is empowering.
When a woman sees her baby growing solely by drinking her milk, it is a powerful, amazing feeling that builds confidence that is gratifying.
INFACT Canada is a coalition on infant feeding. In this article, INFACT supports giving breastfeeding women a supportive and conducive environment where they can breastfeed their babies.
#21. Breastfeeding helps combat postpartum depression.
A National Institutes of Health study showed that breastfeeding moms had a lower risk of postpartum depression.
Additionally, those who continued to breastfeed after six months were less stressed and had lower blood pressure compared to moms who stopped.