During the first week of August, countries around the world celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, which focuses on the importance of breastfeeding for mother and baby. The theme this year is to “Protect breastfeeding.” Breastfeeding is the foundation of life and it ensures the survival, health and well-being of newborns.
Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has just the right amount of nutrients that is easily digested and readily available.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until 2 years old or longer due to the tremendous health benefits for both mother and baby.
Some benefits of breastfeeding for babies include:
- Provides ideal nutrition. Breast milk contains everything the baby needs for the first 6 months of life. The milk is high in protein, low in sugar and loaded with many beneficial compounds.
- Contains important antibodies. The milk is loaded with antibodies that help a baby fight off viruses and bacteria, which is very important during those tender, early months of a baby’s life.
- Reduces risk for disease. Research has shown that exclusive breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk for many illnesses and disease including middle ear infections, respiratory tract infections, colds and infections and intestinal tissue damage.
- Promotes healthy weight. Breastfeeding has been shown to promote healthy weight gain and prevent childhood obesity. This may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage.
Breastfeeding benefits for moms include:
- Facilitates weight loss. Breastfeeding has been show to burn more calories, and after 3 months of lactation, moms will experience an increase in fat burning compared to non-lactating mothers.
- Helps the uterus contract. During pregnancy, the uterus grows immensely. After delivery, the uterus goes through a process called involution which helps it return to its previous size. Oxytocin, a hormone that increases throughout pregnancy, helps fuel this process. Oxytocin increases during breastfeeding and encourage the reduction in the uterus.
- May lower depression. Postpartum depression is a type of depression that can develop shortly after childbirth. Women who breastfed seem less likely to develop postpartum depression.
- Reduces risk for disease. Breastfeeding seems to provide long-term protection against cancer and several disease. The time a women spends breastfeeding is linked with a reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer. They also have a lower risk for high blood pressure, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous! If you have questions about breastfeeding, please contact Providence St. Joseph Hospital's Mother-Baby Assessment Center at 714-744-8764. The Center is staffed by our certified lactation consultants who provide guidance and help with questions or concerns about breastfeeding.