In recent years, we’ve been inundated with information about why breastfeeding is best for babies. Most of the information outlines the many health benefits of breastfeeding, pointing out that your breast milk provides the best nutrition available for your baby.
Of course, we would never downplay the importance of providing your baby with the best nutrition. We would, however, point out that there are many benefits for both mom and baby which go beyond simple nutrition. Many of the most important benefits of breast feeding have nothing to do with the vitamins and nutrients provided in your milk. Consider the following:
- Nursing provides comfort for your baby. While breastfeeding certainly isn’t the only way to comfort a baby when she’s scared or stressed, it is one of the best. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can help reduce the mother’s stress as well.
- Bonding. Most breastfeeding mothers claim that breastfeeding gives them a special bond with their babies. While moms who don’t choose to or are unable to breastfeed can certainly bond with their babies, breastfeeding offers a closeness and bond that is unequalled.
- Oxytocin release. Oxytocin is a hormone released with skin to skin contact, such as breastfeeding. This hormone has been shown to promote confidence and trust and to reduce fear. The release of oxytocin has also been shown to have a positive impact on mothers’ moods.
- Social development. Though the reasons aren’t fully understood yet, studies have shown a correlation between breastfeeding and better social development during childhood (and even into adulthood).
There are many reasons to breastfeed your baby. While the health benefits alone are enough to make breastfeeding worthwhile, the intangible benefits are just as important.
There are many ways to bond with your baby. Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful. Your baby needs the nutrients in your breast milk. She also needs the affection, security and emotional bond which comes from breastfeeding. Babies can and will bond with you if you bottle feed them, but studies have consistently shown that breast is best for bonding just as it is for baby’s nutrition.
Some women experience problems breastfeeding, but most of these problems can be overcome. There is a wealth of information available on all common breastfeeding difficulties. Breastfeeding advocacy groups such as La Leche League provide counseling services and general breastfeeding help. If you experience trouble breastfeeding, ask your health care provider or a breastfeeding support group for help.
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