Motherhood brings many different questions along with it. One of the biggest questions many mothers ask is whether or not to should breastfeed their newborn. Breastfeeding offers many health benefits for both the mother and baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least the first six months of the baby’s life.
Benefits for Mom
Breastfeeding promotes healing for mother after childbirth. While breastfeeding, the mother’s body releases a chemical called oxytocin, which aids in mending the body and restoring the uterus to its normal size.
Breastfeeding can also reduce cancer rates in women. For example, women who breastfeed for two or more years have almost a 25% decrease in their chances of developing breast cancer. Additionally, breastfeeding can protect against other cancers including uterine, endometrial, and ovarian.
Breastfeeding can also lower a woman’s risk of becoming obese. Women who breastfeed their children can burn up to an additional 400 calories per day. This helps protect women against weight gain and helps them to lose the extra pounds they gained during their pregnancy.
Benefits for Baby
In order to properly nourish a child, a mother’s body produces breast milk specific to the needs of that child. Breast milk provides a baby with all the nutrients, vitamins, and even antibodies that the baby needs to protect against disease. Antibodies are passed from mother to baby through breast milk so that her baby will be protected against any illness that she has come into contact with.
Babies who receive their mother’s breast milk are less likely to fall ill to respiratory illness, diarrheal diseases, ear infections, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition to protecting against illness, breast fed children also have lower rates of allergies, especially if the mother suffers from allergies herself.
Breastfeeding your baby can also have health benefits for the child down the road. Breast fed babies were less likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments later in life. Additionally, breastfeeding has been linked to higher cognitive abilities later in life, as well as higher levels of maturity and confidence, and lower rates of psychological and behavioral problems.
Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works