Have you ever thought about the benefits of breastfeeding and wondered, “I really hope I can breastfeed my baby”? This initial pressure you often face is just the beginning of the mental load you will encounter during motherhood. Let’s dig a little deeper into five breastfeeding benefits, but with a twist. We will also explore challenges that may come with them. We want you to recognize that breastfeeding benefits are amazing, but more importantly your mental health comes first. Never let the pressure from yourself, society, or a medical provider dictate your life. 

5 Breastfeeding Benefits

1. Nutritional Benefits

Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It is 87–88% water, 7% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and 3.8% fat. Colostrum is low in fat but high in protein and rich in immune-protective components.

Although breast milk is sometimes referred to as, “liquid gold,” it can be deficient in vitamins D & K which may require supplementation and the composition can vary due to maternal diet. It is not easy for all women to keep up with the demand of a baby’s hunger as they grow. If you have a lower milk supply, you will need to supplement with formula or donor milk until you can build up your supply.

2. Reduces Risk of Infections & Diseases for Baby

A popular and well known breastfeeding benefit is that breast milk contains antibodies that protect the baby’s immune system. For example if you have a cold, your baby will be getting the antibodies necessary to fight that cold themselves. Furthermore, breastfed babies have a lower risk of respiratory infections, ear infections, obesity, & SIDS. Most studies will tell you that breastfeeding for at least 4 months will significantly decrease your child’s risk of these, but breastfeeding does NOT provide complete immunity.

On the flip side, some common breastfeeding complications like thrush and mastitis can temporarily increase the risk of infection for both mom and baby.

3. Maternal Health Benefits

Breastfeeding can promote postpartum healing and is thought to aid in weight loss. Additionally, if you breastfeed over 12 months it can reduce the risk of Breast & Ovarian Cancer, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Yes, the constant oxytocin hits provided by breastfeeding will help get your uterus back to its original size quicker and you will burn at least an extra 500 calories a day. However, breastfeeding-related discomforts such as engorgement, nipple pain, or blocked ducts are stress and anxiety ridden. Additionally, if you have high genetic predisposition to any of those mentioned diseases breastfeeding, alone might not be enough to lower your risk. There are two sides to every coin.

4. Bonding and Emotional Connection

Breastfeeding fosters feelings of security, comfort, and attachment. But, so does bottle feeding! You can still do skin to skin while feeding your baby and can enjoy all the same benefits! If breastfeeding is causing you pain or your baby is not adequately feeding, stress increases and makes it very difficult to find enjoyment in the process. All babies and parents are different and the most important thing is a healthy baby and Mom. So just remember, fed is best!

5. Cost Effective

Yes, breastfeeding is financially less of a burden than having to purchase formula. However, if breastfeeding is causing you mental distress in any way, it can become a burden on relationships, bonding, and your mental health. So, if it’s causing your mental health to decline, you need to seek professional help and make appropriate adjustments that will help you thrive as a mom & a family.

How to Reap the Benefits of Breastfeeding

Do you want to know what most of these breastfeeding benefits need in order to be executed successfully? Lactation Education & Support! If you are educated on common challenges and learn how to overcome them, you will develop a sense of ease & confidence and you will find success. If you have in-home support coming to you in your darkest hours, lending a hand, teaching you new techniques, and helping you find solutions, you will find success. If you stay positive, remember to be flexible & take it one day at a time, you will find success and alleviate some of that pressure you initially had put on yourself. Remember: This is your feeding journey. You call the shots!

About The Author

Boston Lactation ConsultantTina Agostinelli is a mother of two, each with their own unique breastfeeding story. She has 12 years of experience as a pediatric medical assistant and 3 years as a certified lactation educator. Tina launched Breastfeeding Balance, LLC in Fall of 2022. She knows the early postpartum period can be very overwhelming. Tina’s goal is to alleviate some of the stress associated with breastfeeding by using hands on learning to build your confidence and by offering support and encouragement every step of the way to help you achieve your own success. Feel free to reach out to her at [email protected].

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7402982/#:~:text=As%20is%20already%20well%20known,environmental%20factors%2C%20including%20maternal%20diet.
https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/breastfeeding-benefits/index.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4670483/
https://www.mmhla.org/