Breastfeeding is often considered a gift between mother and baby. Besides providing bonding time, the health benefits for baby and mom are undeniable.
Breastfeeding provides all the nutrition and disease protection your baby needs for normal growth and lifelong protection from disease.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, a month to educate women and families about the importance of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding may seem natural, but it may require more training than many people realize.
Although it can be difficult, the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the trials and don’t stop after a few months.
In fact, research shows that you and your baby get more rewards if you continue to breastfeed until your baby’s second birthday.
Benefits of breastfeeding for moms
Breastfeeding moms benefit both in the short and long term. The most immediate benefit is the bond shared with the newborn. The eye contact and skin-to-skin contact you experience while breastfeeding can create a lasting bond.
• The uterus rapidly contracts to its pre-pregnancy size due to hormones released during breastfeeding.
• Breastfeeding burns calories, so a healthy diet combined with an appropriate level of activity can help you lose pregnancy weight faster.
• Save time and money by not having to wash the bottle, weigh the formula or heat the bottle.
• Reduces stress caused by hormones released during breastfeeding.
Mothers also recognize the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding.
• Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
• Studies show that women with gestational diabetes who breastfeed for at least one year in their lifetime have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes than women who do not breastfeed.
Benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Many of the benefits for babies come directly from breast milk. Especially during her first month, your milk will change according to your baby’s needs. Breast milk is especially important for preventing and reducing infections in infants, as it contains factors that reduce infection and inflammation.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the health benefits babies experience from breastfeeding include:
• Reduction in ear infections, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, colds and flu. The proteins in breast milk also fight bacteria.
• Healthy growth and development. The proteins and fats found in breast milk help meet the growing needs of babies, especially premature babies.
• Improves digestion throughout baby’s life. Breast milk contains beneficial bacteria that help your baby’s immune system and metabolism.
• Protection against a wide range of diseases and conditions, including asthma, diabetes and childhood obesity.
• Although there are no studies documenting the safety of vaccination in breastfeeding or lactating individuals against COVID-19, adverse events are unlikely.
Additionally, there is reason to doubt that antibodies generated from vaccines against COVID-19 will pass to babies in breast milk. Therefore, lactating and lactating persons should not be deterred from vaccination. Once vaccinated, there is no reason to stop or withhold breastfeeding.
Every child’s breastfeeding journey is different and requires support not only from medical professionals, but also from family, friends, employers and the community.
It may be difficult, but time and energy can be an investment in solving those challenges.
Whether you’re new to breastfeeding or an experienced mom, you may have many questions about breastfeeding. It is important to consult your provider. They can connect you to resources before or after your baby is born.
Additionally, lactation specialists are available to mothers at all UPMC delivery hospitals. These services are provided in person, by telephone, or through virtual appointments.
Natalie McCullen, RN, BSN, IBCLC is a lactation consultant for The Birthplace at UPMC Magee-Womens in Northern Pennsylvania. She is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. To make a reservation, please call 570-321-2092.