All the benefits of breast milk for your baby – plus why nursing’s great for mom too
When you’re deciding how to feed your new baby you need information – and that’s probably why you’re here.
Maybe you’re hoping to breastfeed but unsure exactly what those amazing benefits you’ve heard of actually are?
Or maybe you want to feed your baby breastmilk but you’re not sure it’s worth being the only one to get up for night feeds. (Sleep loss really does suck.)
So if you’re looking to get some clarity read on – we’re here with 10 reasons breastfeeding is awesome for baby, for YOU – and for the planet too.
And remember – ANY breastfeeding, even just a couple of weeks – will benefit your baby.
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Not medical advice: I am not a doctor or medical practitioner and neither this post nor any other content on this site should be taken as medical advice.
Breastmilk or formula – the big decision
Maybe you’ve always known you’d breastfeed – or maybe you’re more of a ‘line up the pros and cons’ type. It’s a big decision and we all approach it differently, but understanding the benefits of breastmilk for your baby and you can make it easier.
Breastfeeding is not always an easy path to take. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. And you’re probably thinking you’d like to breastfeed so this post is here to help you understand why that’s a great thing to do.
The benefits go way beyond not needing to buy formula at the supermarket. From added immunity for baby to easier weight loss for you – and even benefits for the environment – there are a LOT of ways that breastfeeding is beneficial.
#1 Breastmilk benefits for your baby – nutrition
Your breastmilk is tailor-made by your body for your child. It’s the perfect baby food – easy to digest and ready to go any time, anywhere.
As your baby grows and develops, your breast milk changes too. Morning milk is different from night milk – because baby’s needs are different at those times.
When they go through growth spurts, you’ll produce more milk to support their rapid growth and if they are ill, your body will naturally add antibodies to the mix to help make them better. And once they begin to eat solids, your supply will change to fit in with that too.
Supply and demand breastmilk production
In fact, you won’t ever have to wonder how much milk your baby will need because they work that out for themselves. Breastfed babies let you know when they are hungry and stop feeding when they are full.
Breastmilk production works on supply and demand. If your baby is growing quickly, they’ll come to the breast more often – and this will tell your breasts to make more milk to satisfy them.
Even more amazing is how your actual milk is tailored to your baby’s exact nutritional needs. Brand new babe? You’ll be producing colostrum for a few days – and it’ll probably feel like nothing is happening as you work hard to express milk for your baby and get just a few drops. That can feel disheartening and you might worry that you’ve got a supply problem – but be patient, that colostrum is liquid gold!
It might only come a drop or two at a time but colostrum is highly nutritious food for your newborn. It’s high in protein and also gives your baby antibodies to build their immune system right from the start. Give your breasts a chance and you’ll find it’ll turn to milk in just a few days and then the volume will really go up!
From about day 5 (or sooner) you’ll be making milk (loads of it – remember nursing pads!) and enjoying the sound of your baby’s big gulps as they nurse.
#3 Breastmilk benefits for baby’s health
But it’s not just nutrition – by nursing, you pass a lot of your own immunity to diseases on to your infant. This isn’t just a passing benefit while you breastfeed – it has long lasting benefits. For example, breast-fed babies tend to get sick less often as babies, but also on into their childhood. The longer you breastfeed, the greater and longer-lasting the effects will be for your little one.
Evidence suggests that breastfeeding reduces your baby’s chances of suffering childhood leukaemia, SIDS, diarrhoea and vomiting and infections as a child. And those benefits continue into adulthood – breastfeeding also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity in adults. (Source)
#4 Great for mom & baby bonding
And in addition to all those physical benefits, breastfeeding is also great for baby’s emotional well-being – and mom’s too.
Breastfed babies feed a lot so you’ll spend hours each day with your little one in your arms. All that looking at each other, holding your baby close and enjoying skin to skin will help you to bond with your baby.
Those cuddles will mean you’ll know your baby’s signals really well from the start and it’ll be the beginning of your communication with each other. It’s also beautiful watching that little sweet face doze off in your arms and seeing your child full and satisfied from your milk.
#5 Breastfeeding benefits for mom
Yep, breastfeeding gives your baby an awesome start in life – but it’s also time-consuming and means mom will be doing the bulk of the feeding. Night after night, you’ll be woken up by a hungry baby and it’ll be time to nurse again.
Is it worth it?
Well, you get to decide that. But here are a few reasons why it could be:
Health benefits for moms who breastfeed
Breastfeeding your infant also gives YOU protection from certain diseases. Not that you will definitely not get them – rather they occur less often in women who have breastfed.
These include some cancers – breast cancer and ovarian cancer are both less common in moms who have nursed. Your chances of getting cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis also improve with breastfeeding. And moms as well as babies are less likely to become obese. (Source)
Postpartum weight loss
Feeling a little heavier after your baby? Great news! You’ll use up calories every day that you breastfeed just by producing milk and that should help any weight loss goals you have post baby. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can eat what you like and expect to shed the pounds, but if you eat right, breastfeeding helps with the calorie deficit.
#6 Social benefits of breastfeeding
Being a new mom can be lonely. Maybe you’re still in ‘baby fog’ or it’s just so hard to get out when life with a newborn is relentless. You might find you’re seeing less of your friends and missing adult interaction while you’re caring for your newborn and for a lot of tired breastfeeding moms, support groups make a big difference.
Attending a local breastfeeding group is a great way to get out and socialise while breastfeeding. You’ll be able to get support with any nursing issues you may experience and it’ll get you out of the house and with other moms who have at least one thing in common with you – breastfeeding!
Breastfeeding groups are also great places to practise public nursing and build your confidence breastfeeding in front of others. You’ll feel more comfortable because you won’t be the only one doing it – and you might see a neat nursing top or cover that could work for you too.
#7 The ‘convenience’ of breastfeeding
The theory goes that breastfeeding is easy-peasy, lift-the-shirt-and-go simple. No bottles to sterilise, no formula to buy and measure, no calculating volumes. It sounds too good to be true – is it?
Yes and no.
If you breastfeed for a while – let’s say at least a month – you will most likely enjoy those benefits. It’s true, of course, that you won’t need to wash bottles or buy milk powder if you are breastfeeding – but it takes a little time and confidence to really start to nurse without thinking about it.
Your nipples might be sore while you adjust to frequent breastfeeding. Your supply might go crazy – sudden wet shirts and sore, engorged breasts are NOT convenient. You might spray milk in all directions until your supply settles down. Or, at the other end of the scale, you might find you don’t seem to have enough milk.
None of these things makes you want to breastfeed anywhere and everywhere – so while that’s happening you won’t be feeling the whole ‘convenience’ of breastfeeding.
If you can get past that – past any pain, past any supply issues – then it really is super convenient and that’s when you’ll love it.
That’s when you just watch for your baby’s hunger cues and when you see them, grab a chair and latch on. And repeat. No measuring, no rushing out to buy more – it’s one part of baby life that takes care of itself.
Plus there’s the beauty of watching your baby thrive and grow and knowing that you did that.
#8 Breastfeeding is cheaper than formula
Nursing really is cheaper – because you’re not buying huge, expensive tubs of formula powder every week. (Add in bottles, nipples, a steriliser and maybe even a prep machine and those costs can really add up.)
At the most basic level, breastfeeding is free (have boobs, attach baby) but you can still spend a fortune going crazy on breastfeeding clothes and accessories and there are tons to choose from.
If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to buy a $200 breast pump when a Haakaa will do – but you are going to need nursing pads, nursing bras – and it doesn’t hurt to stock up on an awesome nipple cream like this one.
Over the first six months, you’ll save plenty of money on milk by feeding your baby yourself – and that’s not all you’ll save….
#9 Benefits of breastfeeding for the environment
Is there an eco-goddess in you? Breastfeeding is also great for the environment!
It’s less obvious than cloth vs disposable diapers, but breastfeeding is better for the planet. For a start, there’s a lot of waste and packaging with formula and all those empty tubs to dispose of. In addition, there are cows.
Formula milk is made from cows’ milk and that means dairy farming, which, worldwide contributes a LOT of methane to the atmosphere.
By breastfeeding, you’ll be contributing less to that.
Am I putting you off breastfeeding yet?
If I’m making it sound like maybe breastfeeding isn’t fun – that’s because sometimes it isn’t. There are loads of up-sides. Loads of days when you’ll be so happy you’re doing it – but it’s messy, sometimes sore – and often laugh out loud funny.
And you can’t help any of that.
If you can make it through those tough days, breastfeeding has enormous benefits for you and your baby and will be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things you ever do.
All you can do is be prepared – and have people around you who get it. That’s what you need to figure out now.
What to do now to get prepared for breastfeeding?
Check out Milkology’s Ultimate Breastfeeding Class – she’ll have you confident and excited to start nursing in no time.