Benefits of breastfeeding

As the most natural source of nutrients and protection to the babies, breastfeeding is good not only to the baby, but also to the mother, to the society and to the environment. Below listed some of the very long list of benefits of breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding is good for babies

Like milk of other mammals, human milk is a custom-made food for their offspring.

Human milk contains proteins that can be easily digested, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in the perfect amount. It provides sufficient and balanced nutrition to infants below 6 months of age without overloading the infants’ digestive system which is still maturing. It also contains digestive enzymes that allow more complete digestion and absorption.

Constituents of breastmilk change over different stages of development of the baby. The milk produced during the first few days of birth is called “colostrums”. It is a living substance which contains rich immune protective matters, like large amount of antibodies and living cells. It acts like the baby’s first dose of “vaccine” that protects the new born from infections and decreases risks of allergies. Throughout the feeding period, these immune matters, as well as growth factors, hormones, enzymes etc. exist in breastmilk. All these matter does not exist in formula milk. Breastfed babies are less prone to diseases like enterogastritis, pneumonia, otitis media, urethritis, eczema, asthma, diabetes, leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastmilk is especially important to the health of preterm babies. Immune protective matters in breastmilk of preterm babies are in higher concentration than that of term babies, and provide extra protection to preterm babies, in particular from necrotizing enterocolitis.

Breastmilk contains constituents that promote growth for babies, including essential fatty acids, DHA and AA, etc. These constituents complement with each other to help development in babies’ brain, neural system and retina. Although most milk formula has added long-chained fatty acids like DHA, there is no concrete evidence that proves its long term benefits to the babies’ development.

Breastmilk is fresh and safe, and of the right temperature. Not having to prepare or to use any utensils, feeding from the breast is not only convenient, but can also avoid contamination. Good bacteria on the mother’s breasts provide extra protection to babies. Besides, babies fed on the breast regulate their amount of milk intake by themselves, and lower the chance of obesity due to overfeeding.

Other than providing the best food, breastfeeding helps developing good bonding between mothers and babies. Closeness when feeding from the breast offer babies warmth and security. Mother-and-infant interaction also facilitates psychological and brain development in a long run.

Breastfeeding is good for mothers

Breastfeeding is good for both psychological and physical health of mothers.

Early initiation of breastfeeding stimulates contraction of uterus. This alleviates blood lost and speed up recovery from delivery. Breastfeeding consumes energy reserve built up during pregnancy, and help mothers getting back to the body shape and weight before pregnancy. Breastfeeding lowers the chance of breast cancer, ovary cancer and osteoporosis etc.

Hormonal change brought by breastfeeding helps mother-and-infant bonding, which gives sense of satisfaction and stabilizes mother’s emotion after delivery. In a long run, breastfeeding saves time, money and efforts, which alleviate the pressure brought by taking care of the baby.

Breastfeeding is good for the society

Breastfeeding is important to health of both mothers and babies. Studies in many developed countries show that high breastfeeding rate would lower public medical expenses. Parents of healthier babies would take less leave due to health problem of their child, and thus enhance efficiency and productivity at work.

Breastfeeding is good for the environment

Without costing extra energy and producing any wastes, breastfeeding is the most environmental-friendly way of infant feeding. In a contrary, dairy industry consumes massive amount of energy to raise milk cows, and produces large amount of warm-house gases; preparation of formula milk consumes energy and clean water; production of bottles, teats, cans produce massive amount of non-degradable solid wastes.