In a modernized society, we sometimes forget how intertwined we are with nature. While the human race has made great strides in developing alternative methods for survival, including ways to ensure the survival of infants that otherwise would not, we must not forget that nature still has the upper hand on us in many areas. Breastfeeding is one of these areas as it provides many benefits to both baby and mother, and it is such a valuable tool for both the mother and her baby.
Short-Term Benefits for the Child
As is well known, breastfeeding strengthens the baby's immune system by passing antibodies from the mother to the child. Other lesser-known benefits include a rapid decrease in the chance of respiratory problems; a formula-fed child is three times more likely to be hospitalized for a respiratory illness than a baby who is breastfed for at least three months. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ear infections and chronic diarrhea, which can be deadly in many countries; for example, Brazilian babies that are formula-fed have a mortality rate fifteen times higher than breastfed babies. Breastfed babies also showed far more resistance to allergies in both the short-term and long-term and babies who receive their mother's milk have a smaller risk of suffering from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Long-Term Benefits for the Child
Research shows that the benefits of breastfeeding follow the child long after the breastfeeding ends. One of the most well-known is that babies who are breastfed tend to have far better teeth and fewer dental problems than those who are not breastfed. Children who are breastfed are 30 percent less likely to become obese and 35 percent less likely to develop juvenile diabetes. Breastfeeding has also been demonstrated to reduce the risk of childhood cancer and to lead to lower blood pressure throughout the life of the child. Furthermore, evidence from the psychological community suggests that breastfed children have decreased learning and developmental problems and increased cognitive development.
Benefits for the Mother
Women benefit mentally from the action of breastfeeding their child, which helps establish a closer bond. Health factors are also a good reason, as breastfeeding can help women lose weight after pregnancy; much of this weight gain is actually in preparation of breastfeeding as the process consumes a lot of calories and energy. Breastfeeding also helps release a hormone called oxytocin that allows the uterus to return to its original size in a faster amount of time. Breastfeeding is also a way to prevent additional pregnancies, as hormones that are released are proven to be 98% effective at preventing pregnancies while breastfeeding. The chance of osteoporosis and diabetes are reduced dramatically in women who breastfeed, as is the risk of cancer for women who lactate for at least two years throughout their lives.
There are a variety of reasons to breastfeed, for both the mother and the baby. It is perhaps one of the most natural things about motherhood and to miss this opportunity is to miss one of the greatest experiences with your child. Please, consider breastfeeding as a way to bond with your child and improve both the child of your child and yourself.