Breastfeeding has been part of motherhood since the beginning of time. Before there were formulas and baby bottles, there was breastmilk. Today, mothers have more options than ever when choosing how to feed baby, but breastfeeding is still the best choice. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of certain illnesses and diseases and may impact health for the life of your child.

The First Week of Life - Antibodies

The first milk that comes into the breast is called colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, yellow milk that is rich in vitamins, nutrients and antibodies. Your baby is born without antibodies to fight off disease and illness. Breastfed babies are passed antibodies to protect health for three to four days after birth. On the fifth or sixth day, colostrum is replaced by mature milk.

Mature Milk and Development

Infants develop more quickly during the first year of life than any other time. Breastmilk provides just the right amount of calories, protein, fat and sugar to promote healthy development. As your baby grows and matures, so does your breastmilk. While many mothers choose to start feeding baby solid foods after the first six months, breastmilk makes this unnecessary. Infants can consume only breastmilk for one year or more without ill effects.

Breastmilk is Free

Baby bottles and formula are extremely expensive, but breastmilk is free. On average, parents spend more than $1,500 during the first year alone on bottles, feeding supplies and formula when they choose to bottle feed rather than breastfeed.

Breastmilk Requires no Heating

In the middle of the night you don’t want to get up and heat a bottle before feeding baby and returning to bed. Sleep is limited enough during the first few months after birth without spending twice as long feeding. Often, breastfeeding mothers can nurse in the comfort of their bed without having to leave the room, reducing the stress on mom and baby.

Breastmilk May Reduce the Risk of Some Diseases and Illnesses

According to research, breastfed babies experience fewer illnesses and require fewer medications and trips to the hospital. Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and asthma. Some researchers even believe breastfeeding reduces the risk of type 1 diabetes.

Breastfeeding Mothers are Calmer

The benefits of breastfeeding are not limited to those aimed at baby. Mothers tend to be calmer and produce more milk when they breastfeed, thanks to oxytocin. Oxytocin is released during skin to skin contact with baby.