10 Benefits Of Breastfeeding: Mental And Emotional Benefits For The Baby

Breastfeeding is a very personal decision. There are many benefits of breastfeeding and almost any lactating woman can do it, but it does not come without challenges. Only in rare circumstances such as HIV, AIDS or hard drug use is a mother recommended to not breastfeed. Despite the challenges, to which there are solutions, many professionals and mothers alike believe the benefits outweigh the challenges.

According to several professional organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is recommended that you breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months of his or her life. This means no formula, no dairy milk, and no water. Your baby should still be breastfed from the age of six months to one-year-old, but at this point, you can slowly introduce grains, vegetables, protein, and fruit. Today we will discuss 10 benefits of breastfeeding your baby.

Benefits For The Mother

Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother can be both physical and emotional in nature. Let's discuss a few common ones.

Emotional Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Mom

Breastfeeding your infant does not just only save you time and money buying formula, warming nipples, measuring and cleaning. It also gives you more time to spend bonding with your newborn baby. By nursing your child, you get closeness, skin-to-skin contact and eye contact crucial for your child to bond with you and you to bond with your child.

Physical Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom

Breastfeeding incinerates calories meaning you will return to your pre-pregnancy weight much faster than if you did not breastfeed your baby. This is especially beneficial if you had a C-section and are not yet ready to start exercising.

mother breastfeeding the baby

Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin which will quickly return your uterus to pre-pregnancy size. It also significantly reduces the risk of post-pregnancy uterine bleeding. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and may even reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Benefits For The Baby

There are many benefits of breastfeeding for the infant as well.

Physical Benefits for the Baby

Breast milk contains the ideal nutrition for your infant. It contains nearly the perfect mix of protein, fat and micronutrients your baby needs to grow. It is always the right temperature and always available. For the first few days your body will produce colostrum which will gently help your baby's digestive tract accept nutrients.

Breast milk is much more easily digested than formula. As a result, your baby will have fewer bouts of diarrhea and fewer trips to the doctor or hospital. It contains antibodies to help your baby fight off infections like ear infections, the common cold, and other respiratory illnesses. It also reduces the risk of asthma and allergies.

Infants who breastfeed during the first six months of their life are much less likely to become overweight as they grow up. They need to consume fewer calories to get all the nutrition they need to grow and mothers learn subtle satiety cues which prevent overfeeding. Babies who grow up to be a healthy weight and avoid obesity also mitigate the risks associated with obesity including type 2 diabetes and a host of other medical conditions such as pancreatitis, heart attack, stroke, and fatty liver disease.

According to the AAP, breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.

Mental And Emotional Benefits For The Baby

Research suggests breastfeeding results in a higher IQ and it is definitely a great way for your infant to bond with you. Children know their mother's voice from their time in the womb, so feeding is a great opportunity to talk or sing to your baby.

Common Challenges

Many mothers face common challenges both perceived and real regarding breastfeeding. For example, many women fear they cannot produce enough breast milk to feed their baby, when in reality most women do produce sufficient quantities of breast milk. To help ease any qualms you have about breastfeeding, we will discuss common challenges new mothers face and how to deal with them.

Sore Nipples

mother breastfeeding her baby

New mothers will sometimes complain of sore nipples. Babies should not suck from just the nipple. They should suck from most of the areola and the nipple. If your child has a poor latch, gently break the seal with your finger and adjust the baby's position. Try changing positions every time you breastfeed. Let your nipples air dry after feeding or wear a loose, cotton shirt. Do not wear restrictive undergarments or shirts that will put excessive pressure on your nipples. If they are dry and cracked, rub milk on them with a clean finger. Human breast milk contains soothing oils and natural healing properties. Do not put off feeding due to pain as this can cause issues with the milk.

Nursing Strike

Your baby may successfully breastfeed for months and then suddenly refuse your nipple. This does not mean he or she is ready to go off breast milk completely right away. This is a child's way of communicating to you that something is wrong. Common problems a baby may be having you want to look out for include:

  • A sore mouth from teething, an infection such as thrush or a cold sore
  • An ear infection which will cause pressure when lying on one side or pain while sucking
  • Distress over a change in the mother's routine
  • Having a stuffy nose or cold, causing breathing to be difficult while sucking
  • Being upset by hearing harsh voices while attempting to breastfeed, the repeated denial of feeding when hungry or the mother's reaction to being bitten while breastfeeding.

It is natural to be upset when your baby refuses your nipple or is fussy when it is offered, but be patient. Remember, babies can't communicate with words, so they have to communicate through actions. Your child is probably either in pain due to an infection, immunization or teething or emotionally distraught by others nearby being upset or a change in your routine that he or she does not understand. Try pumping your breast milk if your baby is refusing to feed. This mitigates the risk of engorgement and you can offer it to your baby as an alternative if the time is not yet right for weaning.

Mastitis

Some mothers develop a breast infection called mastitis when breastfeeding. They may experience flu-like symptoms such as lethargy and achiness, fever, nausea, vomiting. It may also result in breasts that feel hot to the touch or very warm and pink or red in color with yellowish discharge from the nipple that looks like colostrum. Mastitis often occurs when a member of the household has a cold or the flu and it usually only affects one breast. As the symptoms are similar, it can be difficult to tell the difference between plugged ducts and mastitis. Although symptoms go away on their own within 24 to 48 hours, seek advice from your doctor if they do not get better after a period of time.

Benefits of breastfeeding

In the meantime, wear supportive bras that will not constrict your breast and put too much pressure on the milk ducts. Apply moist heat to the sore area. Massage the area, starting behind the sore spot in a circular motion towards the nipple. Ask for help from friends and family so you can stay off your feet as much as possible and rest. Breastfeed on the infected side every two hours or more frequently to prevent engorgement.

Conclusion

There are certain circumstances where you should not breastfeed your baby, such as if you have an active infection or are on hard drugs. However, for the most part, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one that you can make either way without harming your child. Multiple professional organizations recommend for the sake of you and your baby that your baby is breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their life. From there, infants should be slowly introduced to dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and grains.

The benefits of breastfeeding for mothers includes safe, significant weight loss, reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, the possible reduced risk of osteoporosis, the return of the uterus to pre-pregnancy size and reduced risk of post-pregnancy uterine bleeding. Less tangible benefits include significant bonding time with the child to talk or sing, be close and have skin-to-skin and eye contact. Mothers will learn subtle satiety cues that will help them when they start to feed their children solids and they will save a lot of time and money.

The benefits of breastfeeding for babies include safely growing to a healthy weight, reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome, optimal nutrition immediately at the right temperature which is easily digested and improved immune systems.

There are several common challenges associated with breastfeeding but between your baby's pediatrician and your lactation consultant, these problems can be resolved. A few of the most common include sore nipples, mastitis, and a nursing strike. If your nipples are sore, gently adjust your baby's latch on your breast so he or she is not sucking on just the nipple. If you develop mastitis, feed from the infected breast at least every two hours to prevent engorgement and get as much rest as you can. Seek medical attention if symptoms do not improve. If your baby goes on a hunger strike, he or she is trying to tell you there is something wrong. This may be a physical pain or discomfort caused by an infection, cold sore or teething, or an emotional discomfort caused by nearby arguing, rejection when hungry or a change in your schedule.

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