By: Erin Odom, Contributing Writer
One of my favorite parts of life with a newborn is breastfeeding. Oh, I keep at it much longer than the newborn stage (22 months with my first, and my goal is at least 2 years with my second), but there is something extra special about all the cuddles and bonding spent the first few days of nursing a newborn.
And while the emotional benefits to both mom and baby are amazing, the physical benefits cannot be ignored.
There are no doubts that breast milk is God’s perfect food for babies.
And I believe breastfeeding paves the way for a real-food life.
Benefits of Breastfeeding NOW
The health benefits of breastfeeding seem endless. In fact, scientists continue to make discoveries of this most amazing super food. Here are just a few benefits to your baby NOW:
- Protects against illnesses. A baby’s saliva signals to its mother the exact antibodies it needs. The mother’s milk is specifically designed to meet the child’s needs. It’s amazing!
- Protects against ear infections. Not only does breast milk help fight infections, but nursing positions (as opposed to the position of sucking a bottle) help prevent build-up of fluid in the ear canal that can lead to infection.
- Less constipation. My girls were never constipated. That is not to say that breastfed babies never get constipated, but it is rare compared to formula-fed children. Breastmilk is the “realest” of foods and is therefore perfect for a baby’s digestive system. I can remember one time when my then-toddler was having trouble using the bathroom. I started nursing her, and it relieved her stomach cramps immediately.
- Less likely to overeat. Whether they mean to or not, mothers who bottle feed often encourage their babies to finish the bottle even when their little stomachs are already full and satisfied. With the breast, the baby will (or should) direct the feeding’s start and finish time.
- Better respiratory system. Studies show that breastfed babies have fewer instances of wheezing, pneumonia, the flu, etc.
Benefits of Breastfeeding LATER
Breastfeeding is one of the best gifts you can give your child—because it sets him or her up for lifelong health in many ways, including:
- Helps prevent obesity. As noted above, breastfed children are less likely to overeat as infants, which paves the way for lifelong eating habits. Studies have shown that breastfed children are less likely to become overweight teenagers and adults.
- Lowers the risk of heart disease. Although still being researched, new studies are showing that the bodies of breastfed babies know how to better process cholesterol. This can lead to a lower cholesterol and lowered risk of heart disease in adults who were breastfed.
- Lowers the risk of type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. Researchers believe this risk is lowered because breastfed babies are not introduced to cow’s milk as early as formula-fed babies (most formulas are cow’s milk based).
- Lowers the risk of asthma and allergies. Breastmilk protects babies from allergens during infancy and sets them up to be less susceptible to them later in life as well.
- Higher brain function. Breastmilk has the perfect fat content for brain building (and we know real foodies LOVE fat!).
Now, is this to say that ALL breastfed babies will be perfectly healthy from day 1? No. In fact, my second child—although exclusively breastfed—suffered from bronchiolitis, ear infections and croup this past winter! I beat myself up about it a lot, but her pediatric chiropractor kept telling me that her health would be MUCH worse if I were not breastfeeding. In fact, on the outside, my daughter looked like a perfectly healthy baby, and although she got sick MUCH more than my firstborn did, her sicknesses were all short lived. (She was also an October baby as opposed to her sister, who was born in June.)
Did you or do you breastfeed your children? Have you seen it make an impact on their health? Were you breastfed? How do you think your early nutrition affected your health today?
Erin is a believer in Jesus Christ and stay-at-home wife and mom of two little redheaded girls. She writes for Carolina Weekly newspaper group, Modern Alternative Mama,Lake Norman Mommies and Jack’s Changing Table. She loves mission work, speaking Spanish, breastfeeding, cloth diapering and researching how to live a healthier lifestyle. She blogs about breastfeeding, natural living and homemaking at The Humbled Homemaker.