There are many reasons that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding babies, exclusively, for at least the first six months of their lives. Scientific studies have demonstrated that breastfeeding is also better for mothers for many reasons.
Bonding with Baby
Consistently, research has shown a direct correlation between mothers and babies who are nursed. Scientists discovered long ago that the intimacy and closeness of breastfeeding greatly strengthens maternal affiliation. This is due to the fact that nursing alters how the mother’s brain responds, since it releases the hormone oxytocin. Because oxytocin is released into the bloodstream during labor, it triggers breast milk production, which is why mothers have the natural instinct to feed the baby as soon as he or she is born. This hormone promotes feelings of confidence and trust, while helping to reduce fear.
Safeguarding from Illnesses
No formula, no matter how well it is developed, can replicate a mother’s milk entirely. Because breast milk is specifically tailored according to the individual baby, she will automatically receive the nourishment and immunity boosters that she requires.
The health protections afforded for babies through breastfeeding go far beyond their childhood years. Numerous studies from around the world have revealed that all kinds of illnesses, from lower respiratory diseases to stomach viruses, meningitis and ear infections occur far less often with breastfed babies. In addition, when illness does occur, breastfed babies are likely to have much milder symptoms and recover much sooner than bottle-fed babies.
Studies have also shown that breastfeeding may reduce the development of certain cancers. This is because the antibodies present in breast milk are designed to strengthen the baby’s entire immune system, providing him or her with a healthy foundation.
Contrary to what some may believe, breastfeeding is exceedingly more convenient than bottle feeding babies. For night feedings, a mother needn’t get up to go to the kitchen to prepare a bottle. Rather, all that is necessary is that she nurses the baby in a comfortable place. While on the go, it is much easier to nurse than to prepare a bottle, mixing water and powder. Also, it is not necessary to carry around bottles of formula or worry about running out while away. If a mom needs to go to an appointment without the baby or return to work, a breast pump makes it easy to express the milk ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it for later use.
There has been some controversy concerning nursing in public, however, there are blankets and nursing covers that help with being discreet. And, many public places such as malls or shopping centers provide nursing rooms with comfortable chairs so moms have a private room in which to nurse. Additionally, an infant nursing pillow is designed for comfort to provide both mom and baby with support throughout the nursing process. All of these factors can make it easier to deal with concerns about nursing at home or in public.
Various research has determined that there is a strong correlation between breastfeeding babies and their cognitive development. In studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology of over 17,000 infants who were followed from birth to 6 and a half years of age, research concluded that exclusive breastfeeding significantly improved cognitive development. The results were gleaned from IQ tests and scores over prolonged periods.
Considering the health, bonding and emotional benefits of breastfeeding, moms who make the choice to do so are not only enhancing their baby’s lives, but their own, as well. What choice will you make?
Karla M. Somers is a writer, graphic designer and mother of one. She believes in being supportive of first-time moms in their breastfeeding endeavors and challenges. Based on her own experiences, she recognizes the value of using an infant nursing pillow or any other accessory that helps make the experience more comfortable for both baby and mother.