Many mothers aren't sure whether they want to breastfeed their newborns or not, and it's an individual decision for every new mother and her partner. That said, there are a few things about breastfeeding that definitely sound like it's worth a shot!
We spoke to Freda Rosenfeld, IBCLC, CCE, a board certified lactation consultant with a practice in Brooklyn, NY, affectionately dubbed the Breast Whisperer by The New York Times, to see what benefits a mother and baby can expect from breastfeeding and why nursing your bubba is one of the best things you can do.
1. Moms have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
According to Freda, "There's about a 4 percent decrease in breast cancer" documented in mothers who breastfeed. That may not sound like much, but reducing your risk by any measure is definitely a step in the right direction!
2. Breast milk is very nutritious for baby!
Breast milk is designed specifically for your little guy's newborn body. In the first few days after birth, mother's produce colostrum, or first milk, which is highly nutritious and different from the milk she will produce later on.
"You want to have that colostrum," Freda says, "which is hugely healthy for the baby's liver, gut, and immune system. It's just so good for the baby." That first milk helps prepare your baby for the world outside the hospital!
3. Nursing can really help after giving birth.
After birth, as you can imagine, your lady bits have been through quite a bit, but nursing soon after birth can help get everything back to normal.
"Early nursing encourages the mother's uterus to return to normal," Freda says. "So the quicker you get the baby to nurse, the hormonal cues for returning the uterus to normal happen, so the mother bleeds less and her uterus returns to normal faster."
4. Suckling helps produce even more milk.
Don't worry about running dry! As long as your little one is suckling, your breasts will continue to produce more milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for a year, but many mothers today want to nurse longer. So don't worry, your body knows to keep the breast milk coming until you start to wean.
5. Helps develop baby's immune system.
When babies are born, they really have no immune system. The antibodies in your breast milk can help baby build up their body's natural defenses faster.
That means, as Freda says, "especially in the first six months, less ear infections, less gastro-infections. Because of all the wonderful antibodies in breast milk, the baby's gotten stronger and they're less likely to get all those little things that go around."
6. Moms have reduced risk of ovarian cancer too.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in the next year, 14,270 women will die from ovarian cancer in the United States alone, and since ovarian cancer symptoms, such as excess bloating, can fly under the radar, it has even been dubbed the "silent killer."
Luckily for breastfeeding mothers, Freda says, there is also "about a 27% decrease in ovarian cancer," to go along with the reduced risk of breast cancer.
7. Nursing is a great way for mom and baby to bond!
After giving birth, mothers can often feel a deep seated sense of separation from their child, and sometimes it can be difficult to rebuild that connection with your newborn. If you're afraid you're not as close as can be with your baby, what better way to bond than nursing? For some mothers, nursing can lead to deeper bonding and more playtime with their newborn.
8. Breast feeding releases all those happy hormones.
Hormones can seriously affect a woman's moods (PMS, anyone?), and the hormones released while breastfeeding can actually brighten your day!
"We also know from some studies that when babies breastfeed," Freda says, "moms' hormones give them a very nice feeling. It gives them a very warm sense, so it's very protective of the mother's emotional state."
9. Breastfeeding leads to lower risks of developing diabetes.
Breastfeeding can help prevent diabetes in mothers and babies. "There's a pretty high statistic that with every child you nurse," Freda says, "your chance of getting adult onset diabetes diminishes." Not only that, but babies who were breast fed are less likely to develop diabetes during their lifetime. Not bad!
10. Nursing can help babies long-term with controlling their weight.
Breastfeeding can also help your newborn's chances of maintaining lifelong healthy eating habits. How?
"We also know that babies who are breastfed often gain weight at a slower, steadier rate; it's good for them long term in maintaining satiety cues," Freda says. "When they nurse on the breast, we let the baby decide how hungry they are, and that allows them to learn how to trigger their own satiety cues, which is very helpful in preventing obesity later in life."
11. You can always pump breast milk and feed from a bottle.
Even after giving birth, you are a very busy woman! Luckily, you don't have to be present for your baby to feel the benefits of breast milk. You can always pump milk for your baby to drink from a bottle, say, while you're at work and baby is with a sitter. You don't have to give up your active life if you choose to breastfeed.
12. You don't need to physically prep for nursing during pregnancy.
There are dozens of things to keep in mind when trying to prepare your body for pregnancy and birth, but luckily, there isn't a thing you need to do to prepare your body for breastfeeding.
"We generally don't tell mothers to prepare physically," Freda says. "We figure once the baby is born, they should be able to just get with it. In the 70s and 80s, we used to tell moms to prepare their nipples, but we realized that was really, totally and completely unnecessary."
13. You can take prenatal breast feeding classes to get the basics down.
That doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to prepare yourself. If you're keen to find out more about nursing pre-baby you could try taking a prenatal breastfeeding class.
"What I would tell people to do," Freda says, "so that they don't have questions, is to take a prenatal breastfeeding class either at their doctor's office, at the hospital where they're delivering or with a board certified lactation consultant, so they can learn how to hold the baby, hot the baby's supposed to latch, so they have a clear understanding of what to do, so they don't wind up having trouble."
14. Some moms say it helps them lose the baby weight.
We've all heard of the horrors of dropping the post-baby weight, and here's a simple way to help get those pesky pounds off. Certain mothers swear by the power of breastfeeding in helping them drop that excess baby weight (though nothing replaces good diet and exercise!).
15. There's always help out there!
Breastfeeding is very personal, but that doesn't mean that there aren't people out there who can help you out. Board certified lactation consultants help mothers everywhere learn how to breastfeed and see them through the process of nursing.
"There are many hospitals that have lactation consultants on staff, so right away, they can get someone in the room, helping them, answering their questions, so they get the nursing off to a good start," Freda says.
16. You can always try it for a few days.
Many mothers are adamant that their child will be nursed on formula, and there is absolutely no problem with that. Freda recommends, however, that even if you don't want to breastfeed for the long haul, try it out for the first few days in the hospital.
"The first two days of nursing are so amazing, for both mother and the baby," Freda says. "For the baby, there's colostrum, first milk."
"And mom is so anxious to hold this brand new baby she's been waiting nine months for. What better way to bond with the baby than nursing? Mom and baby get this wonderful experience."
As amazing as breast milk is, it is not always possible for every mother to breastfeed their child. If you're unable to produce milk or can't get your baby to latch on, don't feel that you're failing as a mom. There's plenty of vital nutrition from formula milk too, but, if you're adamant that breast is best, you can always purchase breast milk from Breast Milk Banks which are available across the nation.
Why are you a breastfeeding mom? Tweet us @wewomenCA.