Let’s get right to it – breastfeeding your baby is AWESOME! For so many reasons! Not only is breastfeeding going to benefit your baby but there are so many benefits for you, momma, as well! Here, I want to just focus on your baby though. I’ll create another post with everything you need to know about how breastfeeding affects you (from the benefits to must have products). But let’s get right to benefits of breastfeeding for a baby!
Benefits of Breastfeeding For a Baby
In a perfect world, moms would breastfeed their babies exclusively for 6 months & then continue breastfeeding into toddler years along with solid foods. We all know this isn’t a reality for most though. Some mom’s experience extreme challenges with breastfeeding. Some mom’s don’t produce enough to breastfeed. Some mom’s struggle with the idea of breastfeeding. And you know what, all of those are okay. Wherever you are at, momma, that’s okay. Breastfeeding is an amazing experience, benefiting both you, mom, & your baby but it’s not an easy experience.
Here, I want to cover the breastfeeding basics for your baby. So, let’s look the benefits of breast milk & breastfeeding and some of the challenges you baby may face. In another post, I’ll cover everything breastfeeding related to mommas – the benefits & challenges that you will face, momma.
But now, let’s focus on your little one. Let’s start with benefits breastfeeding baby:
Benefits of Breastmilk
We’ve all heard it, breast milk is amazing! Moms feel a lot of pressure to breastfeed their baby, & for good reasons, but I want to stress again that wherever you are with breastfeeding, it’s okay. Breastfeeding is amazing, & I hope you choose to do it & have an amazing experience, but you are no less a mom (& a great mom) if you chose formula.
Also know, that ANY amount of breast milk can benefit your baby. So even if you don’t want to, or can’t, exclusively breastfeed…any amount is beneficial for your little one!
Now, let’s get into the good stuff. Women’s bodies are amazing. They change & adapt for 9 months during pregnancy to grow & support life. Breastfeeding is no different. Our bodies produce everything your baby will need to live for the first 6+ months of their life! Breast milk has amazing properties that cannot be reproduced, which is why you are told breastfeeding is preferred over formula.
Some of these amazing benefits (or properties) of breast milk include:
- Perfectly formulated protein: two types of protein in breast milk – whey & casein. These are awesome at fighting infections
- Secretory IgA: a protein found in breast milk that helps protect your baby from viruses & bacteria
- Lysozyme: an enzyme in your breast milk that will help protect your little one against E. Coli & Salmonella. Lysozyme also has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bifidus Factor: this is a carbohydrate in your milk that supports growth of a bacteria to protect your little one against harmful bacteria
- Essential Fats: your milk contains essential fats your baby needs for growth & development (brain development, absorption of vitamins, nervous system development, etc.)
- Vitamins: your milk is packed full of vitamins that are essential to your baby!
- Vitamin A: you baby needs this for healthy vision (colostrum has twice the amount as your regular breast milk)
- Vitamin D: needed for healthy bones & teeth (even breastfeed babies may need more vitamin D since you, their momma, may be deficient)
- Vitamin E: need to protect cell membranes in your babys eyes & lungs
- Vitamin K: helps stop bleeding with blood clotting (your baby will probably be given this at birth)
- Vitamin C: is awesome for many things! It is an antioxidant that helps heal the body, helps with absorbing iron & supports the immune system.
- Vitamin B6: needed for healthy brain development in your baby (this also helps with morning sickness, read my post here about that)
- Vitamin B12: your baby needs this for cell growth & development of the nervous system
- Other B Vitamins: Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5) – all these are needed for your baby to grow, develop & function (skin, hair, nails, eyes, brain, etc.
- Lactose: the main carbohydrate found in breast milk, this helps decrease the number of unhealthy bacteria in your baby’s stomach, also helps fight disease
- Leukocytes: this is what is only found in breast milk, they are living cells that help fight infection
Benefits of Breastfeeding:
Breast milk in and of itself is amazing for your little one, and again the milk can also benefit you as well, but the act of breastfeeding is also very beneficial. So not only is your milk benefiting your little one but just the act of breastfeeding is doing wonders for your baby too!
You shouldn’t just look at breast milk as milk either. Yes, it is milk. But it is more than that – it is more than just a means to feed your little one. Your breast milk has amazing properties and amazing abilities.
Let’s look at overall, how breastfeeding will benefit your little one:
- Helps fight off viruses & bacteria: your breast milk contains A TON of antibodies that will help fight off viruses & bacteria. So, your little one is better protected from those but will also recover faster once sick.
- Promotes Healthy Weight: breast milk helps with gut bacteria which will affect fat storage, it also has a hormone that regulates appetite
- Lower risk of allergies
- Contains stem cells, white blood cells & good bacteria
- Your milk changes (this one is truly unbelievable)
- As your baby grows, your milk will change to meet their new nutritional needs
- When your baby is sick, your milk will change to allow your baby what it needs to fight off the sickness
- Skin to skin contact: this is so important for physical & emotional development, especially early in your baby’s life
Challenges of Breastfeeding (for your baby):
As I’m sure you have heard, breastfeeding has awesome benefits…but it’s not always easy. This is a big reason why moms chose the formula route. In my opinion, the challenges are more for the mom (which I will cover in another post) but your baby can also have some challenges when it comes to breastfeeding.
- Latch Problems
- Different Taste: your breast milk can change flavor depending on what you eat
- Digestive issues: usually with breast milk, you won’t have an issue with your babys digestion. However, what you eat can affect your milk and how your baby digests it.
- Diet: again, your diet can affect how your baby digests your milk but also consider what else you are eating & drinking…because that can pass to your baby (such as alcohol & medications)
Breastfeeding VS Formula:
Like I mentioned before, ANY amount of breast milk will be beneficial to your baby. So if you can’t, or don’t want to, exclusively breastfeed…any amount will benefit your little one!
If you are still on the fence about whether you want to breastfeed though, let’s compare the two. Hopefully this will help you.
Don’t Just Take My Word!
I’m really hoping to encourage mommas to breastfeed their babies, really there is nothing better you can do for your baby! I’ve lived through breastfeeding a baby and saw the benefits for not only my little one but also myself! The properties of your breast milk are truly amazing! But, you don’t just have to take my word for it.
Vicky Greene studied the properties of breast milk while being a bio science student at South Devon College. What she found with this study was that the antimicrobial properties in breast milk continue beyond the first year of the child’s life. So not only is this showing the awesome properties that breast milk has at keeping bacteria away, it also shows that it keeps up through the years of breastfeeding.
This picture is taken from her study. The white spots in the middle of the Petri Dishes are the discs that are soaked in breast milk. You can see that the clear spot surrounding those disks are where the proteins from the breast milk have kept the bacteria away!
What has been your experience with breastfeeding? What are your questions? Leave a comment below!
All the best,