Let's get one thing straight: a fed baby is a happy baby. Whether you breastfeed exclusively, mix feed or stick to formula, there's no right or wrong as long as your little one's belly is full. But for all the nursing mamas out there, here are the top 10 benefits of breastfeeding your baby. I exclusively breastfed my first daughter until she was 21 months old. People gave me funny looks when they saw me nursing a toddler in public, so I started to hide in the car or in parents' rooms to feed her when I was out. I know I shouldn't have been ashamed, but I didn't want to feel the eyes of all the Judgey McJudgersons boring holes into me. Despite that, I was and still am proud that I nursed her that long. When I had my twins, I swore I wouldn't put pressure on myself to breastfeed them exclusively if it became too hard. I did it happily for the first five months, and then I slowly introduced formula and mix fed them until 11 months. I think I did pretty well! The second time around, I was smart enough to recognize that preserving my sanity was more important than doing everything according to some “perfect mom” plan. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continuing breastfeeding along with solid foods from six months until at least one year. But some mamas can't breastfeed while others don't wish to – and that's totally fine. Your body, your choice. If you do nurse, here are some of the benefits for you and your little one.
- Breast milk provides perfect infant nutrition: Not only does it contain the ideal balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, it's also more easily digested than formula. As your baby grows, the composition of your breast milk will change to meet their needs. And when they're sick, your milk will produce more immune-boosting cells to help fight the infection. How amazing is that?!
- Nursing can protect your baby from a range of illnesses: Breastfed babies have a lower risk of respiratory tract infections, ear infections, diarrhea and vomiting, asthma, allergies, Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, and childhood leukemia and lymphoma.
- Breastfeeding can help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS):The risk is reduced by a whopping 36 percent.
- It could make your child smarter:Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between breastfeeding and intelligence, and most have concluded that children who were breastfed have higher IQs – up to 7.5 points higher in elementary-age children. Young adults who were breastfed have also been shown to have higher verbal, performance and comprehensive IQs.
- It can help moms recover from childbirth faster: Breastfeeding can reduce postpartum blood loss and help the uterus return to its normal size faster. It may even help you lose your baby weight given that it burns between 300 and 500 calories a day. Pass the ice cream!
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of numerous illnesses in mothers: Moms who nurse have a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and postpartum depression. In most cases, the longer the duration of breastfeeding, the greater the protective effect.
- It helps you bond with your baby: Breastfeeding forces you to sit down and cuddle your baby several times a day, which can promote bonding. It also causes your brain to release oxytocin – the “love hormone” that helps your milk flow, increases relaxation, and reduces stress and anxiety.
- It's cheaper:The costs of formula, bottles and other feeding accessories can really add up, not to mention the additional health-care expenses you'll incur if your baby gets sick more often. While breastfeeding can be completely free, you may want to invest in a simple breast pump and a few bottles so that you're able to leave your baby in someone else's care for a few hours. But even if you do buy pumping gear, you'll still save a ton of money compared to formula feeding.
- Breastfeeding is easier and saves time: Preparing formula, heating it up, and washing and sterilizing bottles and nipples is very time-consuming. Once you get the hang of breastfeeding, you'll probably find that popping out a boob when your baby is hungry saves you a lot of time and energy.
- It's more environmentally friendly: Dairy production is bad for our planet. Not only do cows produce greenhouse gas emissions that damage the ozone layer, but their manure pollutes our water and unsustainable dairy farming practices destroy our land. And then there's all the energy required to produce tins of formula, bottles, nipples and other feeding accessories, as well as the tons of waste they create. Feeding your baby directly from the source eliminates all these destructive practices.
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