Thursday, August 16, 2012

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

BREASTFEEDING BENEFITS: There
are many for you and your baby
New research constantly comes out about the benefits of breastfeeding, and it can be hard to keep track of them all. That is why I examined the most recent research and read through expert findings to compile a master list of breastfeeding benefits. I've broken them out into benefits for babies and benefits for moms. Whether you are, were, or will be breastfeeding, it's worth reminding yourself why breastfeeding is so important to your baby and yourself.

Breastfeeding benefits for baby

1. Fights disease. The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk gives babies unique protection from illness that can't be duplicated. In studies comparing formula-fed babies to breastfed babies, breastfed babies tend to have a lower incidence of risk for a variety of health problems compared to formula-fed babies. These illnesses include:
2. Strengthens immune system. Moms pass antibodies to their babies through their breastmilk. These antibodies help develop the baby's immune system early on in life and keep her healthy for years to come.


3. Reduces chances of obesity.
 The chances of obesity are significantly less for breastfed babies than formula fed babies, even later on in life.

4. Causes fewer psychological, behavioral, and learning problems.
 Researchers have found that breastfed babies are better behaved at age five than formula-fed babies. Scientists believe this is due to the large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, growth factors, and hormones found in breastmilk. These key ingredients play large roles in infant brain and central nervous system development.

5. Increases IQ. Studies suggest that breastfed babies score better on IQ tests early and later in life. Researchers have also found a link between being breastfed and higher test scores in school.

6. Increases lower leg strength. Studies are now finding that breastfed babies have an association with better performance in standing long jump tests, which draws links between breastfeeding and lower leg strength.

7. Keeps away post-vaccination fevers. Breastfed babies have a lower chance of contracting a post-immunization fever than non-breastfed babies.

8. Protects from cancer.
 Many studies have found a lower rate of cancer in breastfeeding mothers and babies than mothers and babies who use formula. Scientists are linking this trend to a protein called TRAIL, which is found in breastmilk. TRAIL is used in many clinical trials to fight against human cancer cells and might be the link between breastfeeding and lower cancer rates.

Breastfeeding benefits for moms

1. Fights disease. Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of many health problems in breastfeeding women, such as:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Postpartum depression
  • Osteoporosis
2. Prevents cardiovascular disease. Scientists have found that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop heart disease and heart-related risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack because breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which relaxes blood vessels and makes blood flow through the heart easier.

3. Saves money. Formula and feeding supplies can cost upwards of $1,000 each year. Breastfeeding eliminates the need to buy formula every week.

4. Increases emotional heath.
 Breastfeeding moms report higher emotional well-being than non-breastfeeding moms. This is also because breastfeeding releases oxytocin. Oxytocin, often called the "love hormone" can cause calm and happy feelings.

5. Creates a strong mom-baby bond. Direct skin-to-skin contact allows for moms and babies to have intimate bonding time. This type of one-on-one bonding might help develop a stronger mother-child relationship later on in life. Studies also show that due to the skin-to-skin contact associated with breastfeeding, breastfeeding mothers have a stronger maternal sensitivity toward their own children.

6. Increases maternal instincts. A recent study found that mothers who breastfeeding were twice as aggressive as formula-feeding moms. Although this may seem intimidating, scientists have linked this to a heightened maternal instinct in breastfeeding mothers. Therefore, breastfeeding mothers act out more aggressively when their children are threatened as a defense instinct.

7. Helps you lose weight. Breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories a day, making it easier for breastfeeding mothers to lose their pregnancy weight. New studies have also come out suggesting that mothers who breastfed stay thinner later in life.

8. Returns uterus to normal size.
The oxytocin released while breastfeeding stimulates postpartum uterine contractions. These contractions help return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size.

9. Can act as birth control. Breastfeeding can delay the return of the menstrual cycle for around 20 to 30 weeks after giving birth. Exclusive breastfeeding (nothing other than breastmilk) is shown to be an effective form of birth control if your baby is under six months old, feeding on demand throughout day and night, and your period has not returned.

Anything I missed? Any new research that should be added to the mix? Let me know your thoughts in a comment below.

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