When I was pregnant with my first baby I had everything planned out and imagined. Motherhood was going to be amazing, beautiful, fun, and basically a breeze. How could it not be? Motherhood was going to be perfect. And, one of the most perfect parts was going to be breastfeeding my new bundle of joy. Of course I would. That was the easiest decision. My body was made for it. It was just a natural part of motherhood.
Well, just as most things go, breastfeeding wasn't even close to how I imagined it. It definitely didn't come natural to me. It was HARD! It hurt, the baby wasn't latching right, I was bleeding, and so on and so on.
I never knew if the baby was getting anything at all. It was the most stressful part of becoming a new mom. Each day that passed brought on a new worry or stress when it came to breastfeeding. I was throwing in the towel. I couldn't do it. I would just spend the money on formula. After all, there wasn't a price on my sanity. So, after two months of "agony," I made up my mind that I was going to go buy formula.
Then, fatefully, I came across an article about the benefits of breastfeeding. There were plenty of benefits for the mom (financial, emotional, physical), but it was the benefits that breastfeeding provided for my baby that made me reconsider. The entire time I was focused on myself when I really should have been focused on my baby.
Breastfeeding offers so much to newborns and infants. Here are 6 examples:
1. Healthier baby
Mother's breast milk is made up of over a thousand different components; each offering its own benefit. These separate components play a role in protecting and warding off different pathogens (viral, bacterial and even parasites). It is believed that when these different components act together, your child has the ultimate protection. Breastfeeding strengthens a child's immune system.
2. Lower risk of SIDS
It is thought that breastfed babies are at lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding greatly affects an infant's ability to swallow and breath. The act of latching and feeding improves the overall coordination of the baby and is far better for their tiny airways.
Not only is it safer for airways, breast milk also reduces acid reflux lowering the risk of aspiration. On top of the physical benefits against SIDS, breastfeeding has strong emotional effects. Breastfeeding is known to calm a baby encouraging safer sleep.
3. Lower risk of allergies
In part, this benefit coincides with breastfeeding fostering the immune system. Because breastfed babies have a heightened immune system, they are less likely to develop allergies. Additionally, it is believed that the baby's exposure to allergens is reduced due to breast milk.
4. Increased cognitive function
I was NOT breastfed, and I would like to think that I am pretty stable, confident, and doing all right in the realm of cognitive function. In no way do I feel formula fed babies are to be considered of lesser intelligence than breastfed babies. However, studies have shown that those that were breastfed tend to score higher in regards to cognitive testing. It is believed to be the result of the breast milk as well as the maternal bond formed through breastfeeding.
5. Emotional bonding
There is no denying that breastfeeding is intimate. Through the intimacy of breastfeeding babies are able to gain emotional nourishment through the closeness breastfeeding offers. Just as skin to skin contact calms and soothes your baby, so does the connection felt through breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is believed to stimulate feelings your baby felt in the womb, allowing the baby to feel just as safe and secure. Just as breastfeeding supports an emotional bond, that bond supports a health sense of self through the connection made with his or her mother.
Now, as mentioned, in no way does one's ability to breastfeed determine who they are as a parent. Babies are fed formula all the time and have grown and developed into amazing, stable and fully capable adults. However, if you have the choice, breastfeeding should strongly be considered. There is no denying the benefits to mother and especially baby.