Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is a personal decision. You, your baby, and your life are unique, and you need to make the decision that will be best for your family. But if you are trying to learn more about how breastfeeding can be a very strong benefit for both baby and you, we have some information to get you started.
It has been agreed by a number of medical associations that breastfeeding truly is best for infants, including experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Breast milk is a perfect form of nutrition for your baby. It contains all the vitamins, proteins, and fat that an infant needs. All of that important nutrition is contained in a natural form that is easy for babies to digest.
Breast milk is also important to help your infant build antibodies to fight against viruses, bacteria and other infectious illnesses. It lowers the chances of diarrhea as well. One of the reasons for this is because you breast milk is specifically “tailored” to your baby, thanks to a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA).
When your body creates this substance for breastfeeding, it responds to the specific pathogens in your body and creates protection based on those pathogens. This also helps protect against your baby developing certain kinds of allergies. It is believed that this protection comes from IgA creating a protective layer of mucous in your baby’s intestinal tract that helps prevent undigested proteins from crossing into the gut, which is where allergic reactions or other digestive problems can occur.
IgA can also protect against disease after breastfeeding, as your baby grows. Studies have shown protection against some forms of childhood cancer, childhood obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and certain kinds of gastrointestinal problems. Ideally, breast milk should be given exclusively for six months to get the most antibodies and therefore the most protection, but even breastfeeding for shorter periods than that will help boost immunity and protect your baby.
Breastfeeding has advantages for you as well. First off, it burns calories, which can help you lose your “baby weight” faster. A hormone called oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, which has been shown to help bring the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size and state, and can also help reduce the risk of uterine bleeding after you have given birth. And there are future benefits as well, since breastfeeding is linked to a decrease in the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and possibly osteoporosis.
Psychological benefits exist as well. Recent research by the National Institutes of Health shows that breastfeeding significantly decreases a mother’s risk of postpartum depression, thanks again to the release of oxytocin while breastfeeding. And the effects may be long lasting and protect against stress problems even after breastfeeding is done.
There are also significant emotional and developmental benefits to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a time that is just for you and your baby. Bonding is vital to the health of your infant, and this is a wonderful way to do it. Breastfeeding creates a physical bond that releases more oxytocin — sometimes called “the love hormone,” and with good reason — and brings you and baby closer together. Your baby feels a sense of security and love, which is what you want them to feel, always. This emotional bond can also be spread to your partner and other family members when you let them help with things like burping and comforting right after breastfeeding. The whole family can benefit.
To learn more about breastfeeding and to get answer to your questions, call South Lake OB/GYN and Advanced Surgery today. We are here to help you and your baby, every step of the way.