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Breastfeeding: More than Nutrition

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.

Posted in Breastfeeding |
Breastfeeding Effects on Brain Development

We’ve all heard that breast is best. By now, the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control has managed to convince most of us that the milk out bodies produce for our babies gives them the best nutrition. Most of us also know moms’ health benefits from breastfeeding. Did you know, though, that your baby’s intelligence could be positively affected by your choice to breastfeed?

Medical studies have shown that there are two acids in your breast milk, called DHA and ARA, which have a direct impact on your baby’s cognitive development. The lactose in your breast milk is also known to help with your baby’s brain development. Together, these substances also affect:

  • Motor responses
  • Eyesight
  • Central nervous system development
  • Development of nerve cells

Well Researched

Studies have shown that breastfeeding is linked to higher IQ scores in children at seven to eight years of age. The results were even more pronounced for children who were born prematurely. One study showed that full term babies who had been breastfed for at least eight months had average IQ scores 6.2 points higher than babies who were not breastfed. Premature babies who had been breastfed for eight months or more averaged 8.3 points higher than babies who were formula fed.

Many studies have been conducted on the relationship between breastfeeding and brain development. The numbers differ slightly from one study to the next, but they all agree on one thing: breastfeeding your baby is optimal for her cognitive growth and brain development.

This doesn’t mean that your baby will automatically graduate Magna Cum Laude if you breastfeed her. There are many other factors which go into your baby’s intellectual development, not the least of which is your involvement in her education as she grows up. Breastfeeding does mean, however, that you are giving your developing baby the right nutrients her body and brain need to properly develop to her full potential.

Staying the Course

Many women become frustrated when trying to breastfeed. It can be hard not to give up. If you consider the many benefits of breastfeeding your baby, not the least of which is the improved brain development, it makes it easier to stay the course. Support groups like La Leche League also offer help to mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. If nothing else, when you feel yourself getting discouraged, remember that those few extra points just might add up to an extra point or two on her SATs eighteen years from now.

Posted in Breastfeeding |
When Breastfeeding is Not Appropriate

newborn baby breastfeeding

 

There is a preponderance of evidence that breastfeeding is healthier for mom and baby alike. Organizations from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have conducted study after study and released dozens of statements outlining the health benefits of breastfeeding.

Obviously, if you can breastfeeding your baby, you should. There are, however, a few situations in which breastfeeding is not appropriate. Your doctor or health care professional may recommend that you not breastfeed in the following situations:

  • Serious illness. Some types of illness can be transmitted to your baby through your breast milk. Other illnesses can cause your milk to lack the nutrition it would normally carry. In even more cases, the medications you may need to treat your illness can be harmful to your baby if you are breastfeeding. Most illness will not prohibit you from breastfeeding and your doctor will inform you if you have a medical condition which precludes breastfeeding.
  • Infections. Some types of infections, such as HIV or tuberculosis, can make it dangerous to breastfeed your baby. Note:Other infections, like Hepatitis C, will not generally prevent you from breastfeeding.
  • Alcohol or drugs. Most doctors recommend foregoing alcohol and drugs while you are breastfeeding. Some doctors allow for small servings of alcoholic beverages if they are timed far enough away from feedings. If you drink alcohol or use any drugs and aren’t able to give them up while you are breastfeeding, consult your doctor regarding whether you should continue to breastfeed.
  • Breast surgery. If you’ve had breast augmentation or breast reduction surgery, you may not be able to breastfeed due to a reduction in your ability to produce breast milk. Check with your doctor. Even if you don’t produce enough milk to provide for all of your baby’s sustenance, you may be able to augment breastfeeding with formula.
  • Depression. If you suffer from severe or postpartum depression, your doctor may advise you to forego breastfeeding because of possible side effects from medication prescribed.

If you are unable to breastfeed-for any reason-but want to give your baby the health benefits of breast milk, you may still have options. Many communities operate breast milk banks. Mothers who produce enough breast milk pump their milk, donating to the milk bank for the babies of mothers who can’t breastfeed.

If you are unable to breastfeed and a community milk bank is not a possibility, you should never feel badly about bottle feeding your baby. Breast milk is healthiest, but baby formula also has the basic nutrients babies need to grow and thrive.

Posted in Breastfeeding |
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