Benefits of Breastfeeding

Every woman’s journey to motherhood is different, but one of the first decisions a new mother makes is how to feed her child. When you choose to breastfeed, you make an investment in your baby’s future. Breastfeeding allows you to make the food that is perfect for your baby. Your milk gives your baby the healthy start that will last a lifetime.

The evidence is well-established, for both the benefits to mother and baby of breastfeeding. Human milk is designed perfectly for human babies. It provides the perfect nutrition for our little ones and creates a beautiful way to bond. Breastfeeding has some of the most wide-reaching and long lasting effects on your baby’s health and development, more than anything else you can do for her. Genesis Clinic promotes breastfeeding and you will be encouraged and supported to breastfeed after the birth of your baby.  Keep in mind that the early days are a learning period for both mother and baby, but with the right support and information at this time, most women breastfeed successfully.

“Choosing where and how you will give birth is one of the most important preparations you can make for a good breastfeeding experience.” ~ Ina May Gaskin 

Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby

The more natural your birth and post-birth experience with lots of skin-to-skin contact, and the more your baby nurses, the quicker your milk will come in. The first few days after birth, before your milk comes in, the yellow liquid your new baby receives from nursing at your breasts is called colostrum. 

Colostrum is the first secretion rich in antibodies which help protect your new-born from diseases. The amount ingested is so small, just teaspoons, not ounces. It is like liquid health, or liquid gold, if you will, for your baby. Also worth noting is that this “liquid gold” colostrum has a laxative effect that clears the meconium from their bodies (which is a good thing!)

Nutrients and Protection: Breast milk is the best food to help your baby to grow and develop. It is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs.[1]  Human milk is also easier than formula for your baby to digest, which means less mess and fuss! Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease and may reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. After birth, your first milk, called Colostrum, offers vital early protection and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by coating your baby’s digestive system. [2]

Brain Power: There is strong evidence that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance. [3]

Convenient and Portable: Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It is ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or sterilize bottles. This makes night time feedings a lot easier. Since breast milk is always with you, travelling and shopping with your baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.

Size Doesn’t Matter: The size of your breasts doesn’t matter. Big or small, they will produce milk for your baby. Breasts begin to prepare for baby very early in pregnancy and are able to produce Colostrum (the first milk) from about 24 weeks of pregnancy. As soon as your baby is born, hormones begin to activate the breasts to make more milk for your baby. You will continue to produce milk through the wonderful partnership of supply and demand, the more your baby breastfeeds the more milk you will produce!

Benefits Mothers Too: Research suggests that breastfeeding provides a measure of protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life. [2] Your body uses calories to produce milk, so breastfeeding can help you to gradually lose weight gained during pregnancy. Exclusive breastfeeding may also delay the return of menstruation for at least a little while.

Bonding: The closeness and comfort of breastfeeding strengthens the bond with your baby, as one part of all the things you can do to build a secure, loving relationship. Dads and moms can’t spoil a baby, so give your baby all the cuddling she or he wants. Dads can be involved with breastfeeding by helping to wind your baby after a feed.

Benefits Don’t Stop: Research shows that breast milk is so important that it is the only food or drink your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Beginning at 6 months of age babies need a variety of foods in addition to breast milk, which continues to provide nutrition and protection. Many mothers continue to breastfeed until their babies are two years old or more, any amount of breast milk is always good for babies.

Breastfeeding is Free: Breastfeeding saves you money! Without question, breastfeeding saves a lot of money.

Works for Working Mothers: Your baby can have all the benefits of your milk even if you plan to go back to work. You can express milk by hand or with a breast pump and leave it with your caregiver to feed the baby. Breast milk can also be frozen for future use. Some mothers have childcare facilities at their place of work, school, or nearby, so they can breastfeed during their breaks.

Good for Environment: Breastfeeding is good for your baby, for you and the environment! Human milk is produced and delivered to your baby without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste!

Breastfeeding Advice and Support: Breastfeeding is natural, but learning to breastfeed can sometimes take a little time and patience. There are many groups and individuals available to help you. We have weekly Breastfeeding support groups and workshops at Genesis, facilitated by Laura Sayce. Please view here for more information.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother

Reduces the risk of breast cancer: Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast cancer. [4]

Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer: One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that oestrogen levels are lower during lactation. It is thought that the less oestrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and perhaps breast tissue also, the less the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous.

Lessens osteoporosis: Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.

Promotes emotional health: Not only does breastfeeding benefit a mother’s body, it also benefits her mind. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers show less postpartum anxiety and depression than do formula-feeding mothers.

Promotes postpartum weight loss: Breastfeeding mothers showed significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and more fat loss by one month postpartum when compared with formula-feeding moms. Breastfeeding mothers tend to have an earlier return to their pre-pregnant weight.

Long-term benefits of Breastfeeding 

Breastfeeding provides unique nutrition for unique humans and the health benefits of breastfeeding extend far beyond weaning the child. Even babies who continue to nurse into toddlerhood benefit from the many immune factors contained in their mother’s milk.  As researchers look at the various factors associated with different diseases, they often find that children and adults who were breastfed as infants are less likely to experience problems with chronic diseases. 

In some cases, even minimal amounts of breastfeeding may provide some protection against disease in later life. However, the rule of thumb is that the longer a baby is breastfed the greater the protective effect. Breast milk is so much more than food – it is potent medicine and, simultaneously, a powerful medium of communication between mothers and their babies. It is astonishing and it should be – the recipe for mother’s milk is one that female bodies have been developing for 300 million years!

Research Based Evidence for Breastfeeding:

1. The evidence and rationale for the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards, 2013.

2. Breastfeeding, July 21, 2014

3. Cochrane, Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, Dowswell T, 16 May 2012

4. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Research on Breastfeeding & Breast Milk at the NICHD, August 6, 2012