Making The Breastfeeding Decision
Breastfeeding is healthy for mother and baby. Here's why.
Breastfeeding Is Good for Mom, Too continued...
Recent studies also show that the effect of
breastfeeding hormones on the uterus may help reduce a mother's risk of
postpartum hemorrhage (massive uterine bleeding). And, according to Naylor,
preliminary evidence shows that nursing may even help protect some women from
In addition, nursing your baby for even a few months
can reduce your risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer, as well as
potentially help strengthen your bones -- which in turn may offer some
protection against osteoporosis.
"There is no question that breastfeeding has some
important health benefits for mom -- and because it is so beneficial for baby,
it's really a win-win situation. A woman is doing something good for herself
and for her baby at the same time," says Naylor.
How long should you breastfeed? The American Academy
of Pediatrics advises exclusive breastfeeding (that is, only mother's milk --
no water, formula, or other liquids) for six months, followed by breastfeeding
throughout a baby's first year of life and beyond as long as both mother and
But, Aponte says, even just two months of
breastfeeding after birth can give both you and your child some important
health benefits. You shouldn't worry if you can't go beyond that point, he
says. "You are still giving your baby a generous head start in life and
that can make a big difference in long- and short-term health," Aponte
8 Reasons to Consider Breastfeeding
Still not convinced breastfeeding is right for you?
Here are eight more important medical findings you should consider.
Breastfeeding could increase your baby's
intelligence level. Researchers in one study followed a group of babies
into their teens and 20s, documenting intellectual development and cognition
along the way. The result: Babies who were breastfed were simply smarter.
Breastfed babies have better pain relief and less
stress. In one study, doctors found that both crying and
"grimacing" -- expressions of pain and stress -- were dramatically
reduced in babies who were breastfed, compared to those who were
Heart rate was also lower in breastfed babies, even
when subjected to stressful or painful medical procedures. What's more,
researchers report that preventing stress in an infant's early life may have
positive benefits on how important brain chemicals are processed later in life,
which may in turn help him or her better cope with stress and
The American Academy of Pediatrics also points out
that breastfeeding during a painful procedure for baby, such as a needle stick,
provides pain relief.
Breastfeeding can help your child build better
bones. That means your child will develop a stronger skeletal frame.
Doctors in one study showed that at age 8, children who were breastfed three
months or longer had a stronger bone density in their neck and spine than those
who were breastfeed less than three months, or not at all.
Breastfed babies get plenty of
Compared to baby formula,
mother's milk is packed with cholesterol. And while that's not so great for
adults, cholesterol for babies is needed for proper growth and
Some research shows that the high cholesterol content in mother's milk may help
nutritionally program a newborn's metabolism in a way that reduces
susceptibility to high cholesterol and other dietary fat problems later in
Breastfeeding may control obesity later on.
Research shows how high levels of the protein hormone leptin -- abundant in
mother's milk -- influences a baby's growth and body composition
Ultimately this can affect an infant's ability to be satisfied by food and the
ability to self-regulate caloric intake. The end result: Breastfeeding may help
your baby control weight and protect them against obesity later in life. Other
studies show that breastfed babies also generally have lower insulin levels,
which in turn can also help control obesity.
Breastfeeding may mean less risk of asthma. If
your baby is at risk for asthma or other respiratory ailments, breastfeeding
may offer some protection. A group of Australian researchers found that
breastfeeding had a protective effect against asthma even when the mother
herself had this breathing disorder.
In another study, doctors found that even a few short weeks of breastfeeding
following birth offered some measure of protection against the development of
Breastfed babies have stronger immune
Because your breast milk contains an
array of disease-preventing immune factors, doctors have long known that
nursing can protect your baby from a variety of illnesses. Recent studies show
that protective effects of breast milk may be permanent. Even after baby
is weaned, the immune system remains stronger than in infants who were not
Breastfeeding cuts the risk of allergies. If
you're looking to protect your baby from multiple allergic diseases, including
allergic rhinitis or even atopic dermatitis, breastfeeding can do it.
Researchers found that babies who were breastfed exclusively during the first
two years of life were less likely to have any of these problems.