Are you expecting a baby? Have you thought of the decision to breastfeed or formula feed your newborn? Is this a no-brainer for you or do you want to understand more about the importance and benefits of breastfeeding?

Nothing could be more natural than breastfeeding your baby. If you think about it, at one point many years ago this was the only way to feed a baby. As humanity has changed and evolved so have the feeding options for your little one. Today you can also feed your baby formula. Baby formula is a product manufactured and specifically designed to feed babies. The WHO (World Health Organization) says it is a suitable substitute for breast milk. Regardless of the available alternatives what makes breastfeeding the best choice for both you and your baby?

Why Should I Breastfeed My Baby?
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Nutritional Benefits For Your Baby

Breast milk is packed with all the nutrients your child needs as well as disease fighting substances keeping your baby healthy and strong. There have been countless studies showing that breastfed babies get sick less often than formula fed babies as well as illnesses being less severe in breastfed babies.

Your body specifically tailors your breast milk for your infant, responding to viruses or bacteria in your body to protect your baby against them. Not only does breastfeeding protect your baby against illnesses whilst breastfeeding but studies have shown it also protects them later on reducing the risk of childhood cancers. By breastfeeding your baby you are also protecting them from a host of different diseases later in life such as diabetes.

Allergies are also another concern for your baby. Being fed formula increasing risk to allergies, such as allergies to milk based products or soy. Formula is based on cow’s milk and often babies struggle to digest this. Parents often have to try many different types of formula to find the one that least affects their baby. Studies have also linked higher IQ and better cognitive development to babies who are breast fed over formula fed.[1]

It seems breastfed babies are also less likely to be overweight or have weight problems in later life. This is as a result of breastfed babies get less insulin than in formula fed babies; being better at stopping eating when they are satisfied versus babies who are fed formula as well as breastfed babies having more leptin in their systems. Leptin plays a role in regulating appetite and fat.[3]

Emotional Benefits For Your Baby

What better way to bond with your baby than through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is such a wonderful and natural way to connect with your baby. Your growing baby connects with you feeling loved by being nourished by you. Through breastfeeding your body excretes oxytocin which studies have linked to promoting maternal behavior and bonding.

Your baby thrives off the emotional and physical closeness breastfeeding provides. Bottle feeding just doesn’t produce the same kind of nurturing. As much as parents may try to encourage closeness with bottle feeding, it’s just not the same experience.

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Breastfeeding is great for co-sleeping. Mom and baby simply cuddle together in their warm bed making your baby feel safe, loved and nourished. Bottle feeding would require getting up to make bottles and sitting up to feed. A bottle also has to be warmed whereas breast milk is always the right temperature.

Nothing calms a baby like feeding does. It has a natural calming experience – nurturing an upset baby. Obviously if your baby is upset because of wind they won’t want to feed, but if your baby is upset and needs some soothing that holding and cradling just won’t cure, breastfeeding will do the trick. Your breast milk also contains chemicals that act like a sleeping aid for tired babies. This chemical assists them to fall asleep.

Benefits For The Mom

One great benefit for you as the mom who is breastfeeding your little one is the convenience of breastfeeding. There is no need for boiling and cooling water, sterilizing bottles and buying formula. All of which takes a lot of time. Breastfeeding is also free! No mounting costs of formula on top of all the other baby essentials you need to buy. Breastfeeding allows you to feed your baby there and then anywhere you are.

Breastfeeding also helps you lose that baby weight. I remember going down to below the weight I started at before I was pregnant. This was without any strenuous exercise. As I said previously with the excretion of oxytocin through breastfeeding your body is also told to produce uterine contractions, promoting your bodies healing process and restoring your body to its pre-pregnancy condition.

Research has shown that it also reduces your risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

It is also said to be a natural contraceptive. Allowing you to space your children if this is what you would like. There are woman who have still fallen pregnant while breastfeeding as it depends on your babies feeding tendencies.

If you are returning to work and your baby needs to be cared for by a nanny or at crèche then chances are your baby will pick up some germs. Breastfed babies get sick less often and less severely which means that you won’t need to take as much time off work. By using a breast pump you can continue to give your baby the great benefits of breast milk while being at work. Working parents know the struggle between being at work and needing to care for sick children at home. Any employee has only so many leave days and no one wants to use all your time off caring for sick children.[2]

Breastfeeding Room
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How Long Should I Breastfeed For?

It is entirely personal preference when it comes to how long you want to continue to breastfeed for. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months. Most women set goals to breastfeed up to 3 months to a year, however there are those who breastfeed well after this and into toddlerhood. Most people find it a bit unusual to breastfeed for longer than two years.

There are great benefits to breastfeeding as discussed above. The duration also plays an important role in these benefits. Breastfeeding for just the first few days provides essential antibodies your newborn's needs to help get their digestive track working well as well as acting like their first immunization against illness. If you continue for a further 4-6 weeks then you would have protected your little one from illness. After 3-4 months your child’s digestive system would have matured. By exclusively breastfeeding it protects them from allergies; also protecting them from ear infections for a year. By continuing through to 6 months you would have ensured your babies health by protecting them against illness, reducing risk of childhood cancers and ear infections for their first year. Breastfeeding through to 9 months ensures you provide your infant with what they need in a vital part of their brain and body development. Breastfeeding for a year and more saves you the cost of formula and allows your infant to be weaned well onto other foods when they will be well established on family foods.