More and more women are breastfeeding their infants, which isn't surprising since health authorities across the world are in agreement as to its many benefits for babies, mothers and society.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Canada and the U.S. Department of Health all concur that breastfeeding provides the best source of nutritional, immunological and health benefits for the development of infants and children.
Benefits of breastfeeding
But what are those benefits? Here is a quick breakdown.
Benefits for babies
Breast milk provides several nutritional, immunological and developmental benefits to infants.
- Supports nutrition and digestion
- Easy to digest, breast milk is rich in protein, fatty acids, iron and zinc, and is considered the nutritional gold standard for the first six months of life
- Boosts immune system and helps prevent infant illness
- Breast milk and colostrum (early breast milk) are rich in anti-infective properties that can reduce the risk of infant illness and help boost the immune system
- Promotes intelligence
- Studies show that breastfeeding can increase cognitive development in children, possibly resulting in higher I.Q. scores and verbal skills
Benefits for mothers
Breastfeeding also benefits the mother
- Makes life easier
- There are no bottles or rubber nipples to sterilize, and no formula to measure, mix and warm in the middle of the night
- Saves money
- Buying formula and feeding supplies can add up
- With a reduced risk of infant illness, there's a savings in healthcare costs and missed work for the mother
- Both mother and child can benefit from the physical closeness in breastfeeding, which promotes feelings of warmth, security and comfort
- Oxytocin, the hormone that helps milk flow and can calm the mother, is stimulated by skin-to-skin contact
- Weight loss
- Many studies show a greater incidence of post-birth weight loss in women who breastfeed
- Fights illness and disease
- Studies have shown that women who breastfeed have better emotional and physical health
Benefits for society
Breastfeeding can have a positive impact on society as well.
- Ecologically sound
- With no formula to warm up or bottles to disinfect, not to mention the reduction in packaging, breastfeeding is environmentally friendly
- Cuts healthcare costs
- Since breastfeeding has been linked to decreased illness in both mothers and babies, it can help reduce the financial pressure on government assistance, health insurance and family budgets
- Supports the workforce
- With healthier babies and mothers, there are less sick days in the workplace