You want to protect your newborn from pneumonia, ear infections, asthma,
colds and flu. Breast-feeding can help reduce the chances your infant
will contract any of these conditions. And, nursing can provide even more
benefits for both you and your baby. According to according Bozeman Health
Family Birth Center Lactation Coordinator Beckie Walters, RN, BSN, IBCLC, RLC:
1. Breast milk contains anti-infective properties that may help protect
your infant against certain diseases and health conditions, including
the risk of developing chronic conditions such as type I diabetes, celiac
disease or Crohn’s disease. Studies also found it lowers your baby’s
risk of sudden infant death syndrome by nearly 50 percent.
2. All babies need to be held, so breastfeeding provides an opportunity
to indulge them. Infants are comforted by being held close and cuddled
3. Following delivery, your “pre-milk,” called colostrum, is
full of antibodies that protect your infant. It also is higher in protein
and lower in sugar than milk itself, so even a small amount can satisfy
a baby’s hunger. After a few days, the sugar content increases to
provide more calories for your baby. And, breast milk is more digestible
4. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
A woman who lactates absorbs calcium much more efficiently, which can
also help your baby’s bone development.
5. Breastfeeding promotes your baby’s healthy growth, development
and digestion. It also aids in the development of your baby’s immune system.
6. When your baby nurses, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which
helps your uterus contract and thus reduce post-delivery blood loss. Breastfeeding
helps your uterus return to its normal size more quickly, in about six
weeks, as opposed to 10 weeks if you don’t breastfeed.
7. Breastfeeding exclusively causes the release of prolactin, which helps
keep estrogen and progesterone levels low, thus preventing ovulation.
Studies show a nursing mother’s menstruation can stop for six months
to a year. Whether breast or bottle feeding, your prolactin levels eventually
drop so you will start ovulating again. Talk with your doctor about your
need for birth control.
8. Nursing helps you lose weight after giving birth, and particularly is
believed to reduce lower-region body fat after delivery. Breast milk contains
nearly 20 calories per ounce, so feeding your baby 20 ounces a day will
burn 400 calories. Most babies drink 20 to 26 ounces daily.