5 Benefits of Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding is a personal choice, no doubt. And fed is best (because sometimes breastfeeding isn’t a choice). But there are compelling reasons why the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months and breastfeeding for a year or longer when possible.

Consider these five boons of breastfeeding:

Breastfed infants tend to get sick less.

Babies who get mama’s milk tend to have lower risks for ear infections, stomach bugs, and eczema. They also appear to be at lower risk for more serious respiratory conditions—and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding provides long-term health benefits for both babes and mamas.

Some research suggests that the health-promoting effects of mama’s milk on a child may persist throughout life, offering protection against high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Mamas who breastfeed also appear to be at lower risk for high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and breast and ovarian cancers later in life.

Breastfeeding might help you lose the baby weight.

Breastfeeding is no magic bullet when it comes to shedding pounds, but making milk does require energy (read: calories) and, combined with a healthy diet and exercise, may help with postpartum weight loss—particularly for mamas who keep nursing beyond the six-month mark.

Breastfeeding could give you an edge over postpartum depression.

Some research links not breastfeeding with a higher risk of postpartum depression. Why? It’s unclear, though one guess is that breastfeeding may improve mama-baby interactions. That said, it’s important to note that other science shows that worrying about breastfeeding may actually increase the risk for depression. Upshot: if you’re feeling stressed about feeding your baby, consult a lactation counselor, who can help you figure out what’s best for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding is good for Mama Earth.

When you feed your baby breast milk over formula, it reduces the amount of land needed for grazing cows, and cuts back on resources required to make, package, and transport infant formula products.