There are numerous benefits for breastfeeding, they include:
For the baby:
- Greater immune health: During breastfeeding, antibodies pass to the baby. This is one of the most important features of colostrum, the breast milk created for newborns.
- Fewer infections: Studies have shown that breastfed infants have fewer cases of urinary tract infections, middle ear infections and upper respiratory infections.
- Protection from SIDS: Breastfed babies have better arousal from sleep at 2–3 months, the time when most cases of sudden infant death occurs
- Higher intelligence
- Less diabetes
- Less childhood obesity
- Less tendency to develop allergic diseases
- Less overweight
Benefits for the mother:
- Hormone release
- Weight loss
- Postpartum infertility
Breast feeding is also cost efficient, the milk is free, and no need for sterilizing bottles. All pediatricians recommend breastfeeding, and the organization, La Leche League strongly encourages breastfeeding and offers information and support to all mothers before and after pregnancy.
There are some situations that prevent breastfeeding. These include the inability of the baby to latch on, if the mother is on medication, or unable to produce milk, diseases such as HIV, and work or other types of separation.
As a nurse I would encourage pregnant women to breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months, which is recommended by pediatricians. However, as a mother, I would not chastise a bottle feeding mother. I did not breastfeed my child. I imagine because it was not as popular as it is today. There were alot of social stigmas attached to breast feeding, especially in public. In fact, there are still issues that arise regularly about public breastfeeding, and indecent exposure. In 2005 Barbara Walters made the comment on "The View" that she sat next to a nursing mother on a plane and became uncomfortable. This caused an uproar and over 200 nursing mothers showed up at the station and held a "nurse in", nursing their babies outside.
In 2006 a woman was denied a seat on a flight because she was breastfeeding, and in 2007 a woman was asked to leave a Applebees restaurant for breastfeeding in public, stating indecent exposure as the reason.
While there has been much research on the benefits of nursing, I am not sure the same can't also be claimed by bottlefed babies. My son, was and is very healthy, no medical problems, infections or diseases. He is very intelligent, smarter than his mother he will tell you. He was never obese and has a great bond with his mother. His wife, on the other hand, was breastfed, and can't claim the same.
So this week, as we recognize World breastfeeding week, I want to encourage all pregnant moms to consider breastfeeding your baby, and ask the family members to offer their support for that decision to promote healthy nutrition for the newborn, and a beautiful bonding experience for all.