If you’re a first-time mother, breastfeeding might seem like an intimidating prospect. However, it is quite literally the most natural thing in the world, and the benefits for you and your baby are significant. Doctors advise mothers to begin breastfeeding as soon as they can; waiting a couple of days until you get home from the hospital is often a big mistake.
That’s because of a woman’s colostrum – that’s a mother’s nutrient-rich first milk – will stop flowing after a couple days, and once this window closes it can’t be opened again. As soon as three days after birth, colostrum will stop and mature milk will begin to flow, with the perfect amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to help your baby grow.
Here are some of the biggest health benefits of breastfeeding your baby:
- Fewer Illnesses: Newborns are very fragile, and they’re susceptible to colds, viruses and pneumonia. Babies who are breastfed have fewer ear infections and viral infections than babies who are bottle-fed.
- Better Long-term Health: Babies who are breastfed have fewer chronic conditions like diabetes and celiac disease throughout their life. They are also less likely to suffer from obesity as both children and adults.
- Lower SIDS Risk: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the tragic, still not fully understood death of an otherwise healthy infant. Breastfeeding lowers your baby's risk of SIDS by about 50 percent. According to research, the longer a baby breastfeeds, the more positive the impact.
- Better Digestive System Growth and Function: When your baby is first born, their stomach is the size of a blueberry – the nutrient-rich colostrum helps their digestive system grow. Research indicates that breastfed babies have lower incidences of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). Additionally, breastfeeding helps babies learn to coordinate breathing and swallowing, one of the first things that all babies must learn.
- Less Risk of Cancer: Breastfeeding can decrease your baby's risk of some childhood cancers and also lower the mother’s risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- A Closer Bond with Mom: Breastfeeding creates a closeness between baby and mother. The skin-to-skin contact helps the baby to realize that the mother is there to protect him or her and that this is a place of safety. And for the mom, breastfeeding causes the release of the hormone oxytocin in your brain, which creates feelings of love, trust and affection.
The evidence is pretty clear – breastfeeding is good for babies. It delivers health benefits that can, literally, last a lifetime. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. It contains just the right amount of nutrients. It is also gentle on your baby's developing stomach, intestines and other body systems.