Breast milk is the premier source of nutrients recommended for infants during the first six months of life. However, the benefits of breast milk extend well beyond providing nutrition. Breastfeeding provides antibodies that protect babies from various bacteria and viruses at a time when their immune systems are not yet fully developed. It reduces diarrheal infections by threefold, the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by a half in the first three months of life, and offers protection against ear infections, respiratory infections, meningitis, and even certain childhood cancers. Breast milk is observed to offer infants protection from developing allergies and more so if they are born to parents with known allergies.
Moreover, breastfeeding is proven to offer protection beyond the breastfeeding years. Children who have been breastfed are less likely to develop juvenile diabetes, bowel inflammatory diseases, and high blood pressure. In terms of mental health, breastfed children have lower risks for developing behavioural and psychological problems and are observed to be more advanced in terms of cognitive development.
However, the various benefits of breastfeeding to children alone. Mothers who choose to breastfed reap health benefits as well.
Numerous researches suggest that women who choose to breastfed are less likely to suffer from postpartum stress and depression. In contrast, mothers who did not breastfeed or stopped breastfeeding early are more likely to develop postpartum depression. The bond that a mother forms with her baby while breastfeeding in fowlers position is seen to reduce her levels of anxiety and stress. Breastfeeding mothers often report feeling relaxed while breastfeeding. This is because breastfeeding triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which brings mothers to a state of relaxation. Oxytocin also plays an important role in promoting uterine contraction right after and in the days following delivery to prevent bleeding and helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnant size much faster.
For women who are looking forward to shedding off the extra pounds they have gained during pregnancy, breastfeeding is a helpful solution. The body will more burn more calories to produce milk and will use up those extra gained pounds as energy source.
Breastfeeding is also found to have a protected effect against developing osteoporosis later in life. While minimal loss of bone-mineral density is expected during lactation, these minerals will be replaced in much bigger quantity after breastfeeding.
Mothers who choose to breastfeed are suggested to have a reduced risk for developing breast cancer by over 20%. Moreover, risks for developing ovarian, endometrial, and uterine cancers are reduced as well. Although the reason for this is still unclear, some research suggests that this may be due to the suppression effect of lactation on the hormone estrogen, which is linked to cancers of the breast and reproductive system.