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Breastfeeding: The Benefits!

As with any decision you make regarding your little one, it’s best to have all of the information to guide you! Choosing whether or not to breastfeed is your own personal choice. It is important though to be aware of the numerous health benefits associated with breastfeeding for both you and your baby! The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for your baby’s first 6-months, continuing alongside solid foods up until two years. This is due to the many evidence-based benefits associated with breastfeeding, including (but not limited to):

For baby:

1. Nutrients

Breast milk provides all of the nutrition your little one needs for the first six months of life. Its composition actually changes over the first few weeks of life to ensure your baby receives the ideal nutrients they need. In the first few days after birth, breasts produce a fluid called colostrum. Colostrum is high in protein and low in sugar and helps your baby’s digestive system develop.

2. Antibodies

Through breastfeeding, you pass many essential antibodies onto your baby. Antibodies help your little one to fight off illness by fending off viruses and bacteria. This builds up your baby’s immune system. The colostrum in breast milk also contains high amounts of immunoglobulin A which protects your baby from illness by forming a protective layer in the baby’s throat, nose, and digestive system.

3. Decreased risk of disease

Evidence has shown that exclusive breastfeeding decreases the likelihood that your baby will develop various different diseases. These include respiratory tract infections, ear infections, allergies such as asthma and eczema, diabetes, gastroenteritis, and leukemia. Breastfeeding has also been linked to a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

4. Brain development

Babies who have been breastfed have been shown to have on average higher IQs. This is because studies have shown that breastfeeding assists the brain development of your baby, increasing their cognitive functions. Breastfeeding also appears to reduce the risk of your baby learning difficulties or behavioural issues.

5. Weight regulation

Breastfeeding helps your baby to gain weight directly after birth and return to a healthy weight. Studies have also shown that children who were breastfed are significantly less likely to develop obesity. This may be due to the way in which breastfeeding assists the development of your baby’s digestive system and increases your baby’s gut bacteria which lowers fat storage. Breastfeeding also increases the quantity of leptin in your baby’s system which is a hormone that regulates fat storage.

For mum:

1. Uterus contraction

After pregnancy, your uterus experiences a process called involution. This helps to return it to its pre-pregnancy size. The hormone oxytocin aids this process. Breastfeeding increases the level of oxytocin your body secretes, therefore helping to contract your uterus faster.

2. Reduced risk of disease

Evidence shows that breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. This risk seems to fall even further the longer you breastfeed. Breastfeeding has also proven to protect mothers against heart disease, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.

3. Weight loss

For some women, breastfeeding has been shown to assist them in their return to their pre-pregnancy figure. This is likely due to the calories you burn while breastfeeding. Particularly after three months of breastfeeding, lactating mothers experience a rise in weight loss compared to non-lactating.