You've heard that breast is best. Sure, it makes sense to most people that human milk would allow for the highest nutrition one can supply to a human baby. But what about other advantages? There are a lot of purported benefits to breastfeeding. Some of these are well-established and others not so reasonably confirmed. But overall, in an age where wild assertions abound concerning health claims of various and sundry things, here is one "nutritional supplement" that lives up to its billing.
But what exactly are the actual proven advantages to breastfeeding? This is not such a silly question given the fact that there are people in this world with hidden agendas concerning all sorts of issues including breastfeeding. Examples might include the formula manufacturer who doesn't disclose all the benefits of breastfeeding because it might outline where the formula is lacking. Conversely, the breastpump manufacturer may exaggerate reported benefits in an attempt to increase sales.
The decision whether or not to breastfeed is a personal one which takes into account personal, professional, and economic issues. Clearly, there are situations in which conditions in the mother or child make it impossible or inadvisable to breastfeed. Therefore, the following information is meant to help parents make a fully informed decision by taking into account what we know and don't know about the advantages to breastfeeding:
- Breastmilk feeding is known to decrease the incidence of many illnesses including ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, meningitis, and urinary tract infections.
- Evidence suggesting breastfed babies have higher cognitive development has been published but is quite controversial and is still being studied.
- Breastfeeding increases the maternal hormone, oxytocin, which is responsible in helping shut down bleeding in the uterus after birth. This means less post-partum blood loss.
- There is evidence to suggest that breastfeeding decreases the risk of SIDS, diabetes, allergic diseases, and other chronic digestive diseases.
- Women who breastfeed reach their pre-pregnancy weight faster.
- Lactation decreases the amount of blood lost during menstrual periods in the months following birth.
- Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer prior to menopause.
- Mother's who breastfeed reduce their risk of hip fracture later in life due to the body's increased ability to deposit calcium in the bones.
- It is estimated that over 400 dollars can be saved in the first year if breastfeeding is chosen over formula feeding.
Good luck to all you new parents out there.