First, I just want you to take a moment to re-read the title above and realize how awesome it is, period. MODG, a comical blogger, shared with readers the advantages of breastfeeding in honor of World Breastfeeding Week this past August. Of the top 10 advantages, one was “You always win.” She then went on to share an example of this advantage with a fictitious dialogue between her and her husband:
Photo Credit: Weebly Photos
B: What a hard day at work. Let’s watch the game.
Me: It was such a hard day keeping our son alive with my own body. Let’s watch 3 hours of The Bachelorette.
B: (hands over remote)
Laughs aside, this is AMAZING! I think it’s unfortunate that the human body is often underestimated of its capabilities; however, our bodies as females are designed to birth, provide for, and nourish our babies. Side note to expectant parents: let remnants of this simplicity carry over into your first few months of parenting. Your head is probably spinning with conflicting information from the media, family and friends (who usually mean well when dishing out advice), and health care professionals in regards to parenting. Please know that you don’t need lots of fancy things to make your baby happy. Newborns love to be held close and to hear your voice. Keep your baby near, preferably skin-to-skin, and you can never go wrong.
Photo credit: Busy Mommy Media
Breastfeeding can help protect your child against:
Breastfeeding can provide pain relief to babies (keep your little one at your breast while newborn procedures are being done after the birth) (Yamada, 2008). Breastfeeding also improves a child's cognitive and language development as compared to children who were not exclusively breastfed (Kramer, 2008).
As you can see, your baby benefits from breastfeeding in many ways. Not only because of it's protective factors against illness and infection, but because breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby, too! Breastfeeding is not just a way to feed your newborn; it deepens your attachment to him/her as well. When you breastfeed your baby, your body releases oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that help “let down” your milk and deliver it into your baby's mouth. These hormones are also responsible for the blissed-out buzz you get when you breastfeed, causing relaxation and a desire to cuddle with your baby. The release of oxytocin also helps your uterus to contract and shrink back down to its pre-pregnant size. As luck would have it, your uterus isn't the only thing that reduces in size when you breastfeed. Most women typically lose inches in their waistline when nursing their babies (LLLI, 2010). That's right...breastfeeding can help you fit into those clothes you wore back before you were known as “Mommy.”
If you breastfeed your baby exclusively (not providing any other food or drink except breastmilk) and often (remember to watch your baby and not the clock!), your period is not likely to come back for at least six months. This contraception method, known as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), is 98-99% effective when used correctly. When you nurse based on your baby's feeding cues and “empty” your breasts when they feel full, you are following the process of supply and demand. Basically, your baby is removing the milk from your breasts in order to allow more room for new milk production (known as “galactopoiesis”...how about that for your 'Word of the Day?').
So, let's recap: Mom is bonding with baby, losing weight, and not experiencing a monthly period? Pretty impressive, but the benefits don't stop there. Moms who breastfeed are also at a lower risk of developing breast, uterine, and cervical cancer. They are also at a reduced risk of developing diabetes and osteoporosis (LLLI, 2010). New studies even show that moms who breastfeed actually get more sleep than moms who do not.
Last, but definitely not least, we should stop and take a second to think about how breastfeeding can influence society as a whole. I've often heard many times before, "Breast is best," but I disagree. I know, I know. You're thinking, "Ummm..Lindsey? You just listed one million reasons why breastfeeding is fabulous. Of course you think breast is best." Actually, breastfeeding is the norm, not "the best." Like I stated earlier, women's bodies are designed to feed their babies. And it's not just about baby's nutrition, but the strong relationship that develops between mom and baby, which eventually spills over into the relationships that exist in our communities. Unfortunately, our society has lost sight of the practicality of women's breasts, focusing more on their sexuality instead. This can make it hard for women to breastfeed in public or even discuss using a breast pump at work with their employer (Pumping moms are allowed time and space in their workplace according to the law, by the way). If you happen to catch a mom breastfeeding in public, cheer her on. Tell her that she's doing a great job. I believe that we need to embrace breastfeeding in order for moms to have the confidence and proper support to nurse their babies. After all, they're filled with too much goodness to not utilize, right?
And for one last laugh....