Breastfeeding has a myriad of health benefits not only for the baby but for the mother as well. Every woman is different and some choose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, but this comes at the cost of risks to the child. According to the CDC, only 1 in 4 infants are breastfed adequately, with many mothers opting for store-bought baby formulas to take a break from breastfeeding. Rates of breastfeeding vary by culture and ethnicity, so what’s the norm in one population may not be the norm in another. However, the science tells us that breast feeding is beneficial no matter what background you come from. What’s more, low rates of breastfeeding increase national medical costs by 3 billion dollars in the United States. In this article, we will explore the top reasons why breastfeeding is healthy for both the mother and baby.
Physical health benefits for babies
The CDC lists a number of medical conditions that are reduced for babies who were sufficiently breastfed by their mothers. They include:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Severe lower respiratory disease
- Ear infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Gastrointestinal infections
Physical health benefits for mothers
Mothers who regularly breastfeed after giving birth are likely to lose weight faster because the body burns about 500 calories a day producing and maintaining milk. The CDC also lists a number of health problems that are reduced for mothers who breastfeed their children. They include:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Ovarian cancer
- Breast cancer
Breastfeeding and mental health
Breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit the physical health of the mother and baby, it benefits their mental health as well. According to one study, breastfeeding may actually lead to better cognitive development for the child, increasing their intelligence levels later in life. Furthermore, babies who were breastfed are less likely to have behavioral problems as they get older. One study indicates that mothers who regularly breastfeed their babies are at a lower risk for post-partum depression. Post-partum depression is a mood disorder that affects roughly 10-20 percent of new mothers. The reason for this is that breastfeeding signals the body to release oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel emotionally and physically connected. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that is responsible for a number of other functions in the body as well. It may help regulate stress, heal the body after giving birth, and lower blood pressure. And lastly, breastfeeding will help you bond with your baby so you can set yourself up to have a healthy and satisfying relationship with him or her.
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