Do you know why you should breastfeed? Many women choose to breastfeed because they’ve heard it preached that “breast is best.” We gave our babies breastmilk because we were assured it was the healthiest nourishment, but we didn’t know why. It reminds me of a story I know (I promise to make it a quick one!)
Have you ever heard about the woman who always cuts the end off of a ham before roasting it? Her husband asks why and she says that’s the way her mom always did it. Curious, she asked her mother why she always cuts the end off the ham. The mother replies that’s the way her mom always did it. Even more curious, she calls grandma to ask why we cut the end off a ham before cooking it. Grandma’s response was simple “I don’t know why you fools are doing it, but my roasting pan was too small!”
Sometimes in life, we do things because we think ‘that’s just the way it should be done.’ Knowing the reason – the purpose – of an action empowers you to act decisively and live intentionally. It also gives you the power to know when your actions are worth the time, and when your effort would be better spent in another pursuit.
Breastfeeding is a perfect example of this because we all know “breast is best.” Do we really know the science behind why it’s best? Here are six remarkable reasons to give your baby breastmilk!
Custom made meals
When your baby is born, your breasts produce a high-fat nutrient-dense substance called colostrum. Colostrum is so amazing that just a few drops satisfy your baby’s nutritional needs for that feeding. After a few days, your milk will come in and will gradually become less rich. As your baby grows, your milk will adapt to meet his nutritional requirements.
If you become sick, naturally your baby is at risk of catching whatever is making you miserable; so as your incredible body fights off the sickness, it will also start packing antibodies for that particular illness in your milk. You’re healing you and protecting your baby all at the same time!
If your baby becomes sick, somehow your mommy super-body will sense a greater nutritional need and will pack more nutrients into your milk. Scientists still haven’t completely figured out how we do it.
Wanna hear something even more amazing? In the mornings, your milk will provide a slight pick-me-up energy boost for your baby (think morning coffee, but not so strong). In the evening, your milk will calm and soothe your little one to help them get ready for sleep. Pretty cool right?
(I checked with a lactation consultant, and this doesn’t mean that if you pump your milk, you should only give your baby morning-pumped-milk in the morning. It’s not as drastic and strong an effect as all that. It’s just a little helper.)
Breastmilk means less gas
An abundance of healthy bacteria in breastmilk makes baby’s gut much healthier. There is a dramatic difference in the number of breastfed babies with constipation, gas, and colic when compared to formula-fed babies. So breastfeeding can actually keep your baby from being in pain due to constipation, and the discomfort of a gassy belly.
Selfishly, this is good for parents too. Of course, we feel bad for a baby with an achy belly; but we also tend to feel bad for ourselves. I don’t know a person alive who enjoys hanging out with a gassy baby. The screaming and crying from an uncomfortable infant will wear down anyone’s patience.
Don’t judge here. If you haven’t spent an hour or ten trying to soothe a gassy baby, you can’t possibly understand how your ears begin to throb, your vision wobbles, and your teeth are on edge. You feel like if you don’t get this baby relief, your head may actually explode.
Breastfeeding will NOT eliminate gas – but it will reduce the amount of tummy trouble your baby experiences.
Lower risk of SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is probably the number one fear of parents in the first year of a baby’s life. Even if you do everything to protect your baby, you do everything right, your precious child might inexplicably stop breathing while they sleep.
There’s no more shocking way to lose a child than to walk to the crib of a baby who was healthy and robust just hours earlier, only to find they’ve died. There were no signs, no way to prepare, and no way to take it back.
I know someone who lost a baby to SIDS, and I can tell you that even years later, she is still haunted by what-ifs. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Study after study shows a link between breastfeeding and intelligent kids. That’s not a guarantee that you won’t have a child with a learning handicap, and it doesn’t mean NASA will be beating your door down to employ your little rocket scientist. It means that your child’s brain is going to have the optimum nutrition to flourish, while baby formula might actually hinder such flourishing.
Ever notice how formula companies brag about the extra brain-boosting benefits of their formula? You do that in your sleep.
Less chance of obesity
While it’s true that food choices over time are what will ultimately determine a person’s weight, there’s no denying that breastfed babies don’t have as much trouble with obesity as they grow. The numbers don’t lie. I’m not sure what the driving force behind these svelte milk drinkers is, but it’s totally true. All in all, formula fed babies are more likely to become obese as they get older.
Lower risk of diseases
Breastmilk is a superfood. As a result of the nutrients and antibodies passing through breastmilk, breastfed babies experience fewer hospitalizations and major illnesses. According to www.kidshealth.org, and www.webmd.com, here are some other illnesses breastfed babies may enjoy enhanced protection from:
- ear infections
- respiratory infections
- Hodgkin’s disease
That’s not exactly a list of lightweights! This alone makes a powerful case for breastfeeding.
Weighing your options
Now I’m no stranger to mommy guilt. With that in mind, let me say that if you just read this list and feel like a failure, ME TOO!!!
Breastmilk is absolutely hands-down the healthiest option for newborns. Let’s admit now that we don’t (or can’t) always pick the best option. Sometimes we have to settle instead for a really good option because there are more important things than breastfeeding. I’m all for giving it all you’ve got, putting forth a massive effort, and getting professional help; but we also have to know when we’re beat.
If you supplement with formula, or for whatever reason had to stop breastfeeding, DON’T beat yourself up over this list. Baby formula is not the #1 food for infants, but it is the #2 food. 🙂 The important thing here is that you love you baby and provide good nourishment.
This article isn’t intended to bash, shame, or guilt anyone. Rather, it’s meant to motivate and encourage you by showing the amazing benefits of breastfeeding. Isn’t this list incredible? I mean, it all but says your baby will leap tall buildings!!! What’s even cooler is that there are aspects of breastmilk that completely mystify scientists. They have no idea how our bodies are able to make such marvelous nutrition so intuitively.
Please share this list with others. Pass it on! Give mamas the encouragement they need to know WHY what they’re doing is so incredible for their little ones!
Can you think of a health benefit I didn’t mention? Please comment below and share it!