In the weeks leading up to the birth of your baby there will be many decisions to make. Do you want to start vaccines in the hospital? Who will your pediatrician be? Do you have a name? With so many things to think about there is one choice that more and more women in the U.S are making for their babies: they are deciding to breastfeed.
Interestingly, the general public in the United States has struggled, in the past, to support breastfeeding mothers and their infants in the decision to nurse, but more recently have been striving to improve support and offer resources to help you breastfeed for as long as you desire. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 74% of U.S. babies have had some breast milk after birth, but that number drops sharply in the months following, with only 14% of babies receiving just breast milk by 6 months of age.
Many women know right away if they will breast or bottle feed, but you may not be sure. Why is breastfeeding so much better for your baby? There are several reasons.
- Breastfeeding the perfect nutrition for your baby. Easier to digest than synthetic formulas, breast milk even changes in supply, calorie and fat content according to your baby’s growing needs. It is also much easier to digest and reduces your baby’s chances of developing digestive issues like colic and constipation.
- Nursing prevents sickness for your baby. Babies who are breastfed are shown to have fewer stomach viruses, respiratory illnesses, ear infections and meningitis compared to bottle fed babies. And for those times when your baby is ill, breast feeders seem to have more mild cases and recover more quickly.
- Lower risk of SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates may be reduced by as much as 50% for babies who breastfeed.
- Lower mom’s risk of depression, cancer and stress. Breastfeeding triggers a complex series of hormonal reactions in order for mothers to make milk. When a baby nurses, the brain releases the chemical oxytocin which helps promote relaxation and boost mood. Oxytocin also helps your uterus contract to help control bleeding after your baby is born and help you get back into your pre-pregnancy jeans more quickly. Moms who nurse for several months or up to a year may also lower their risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Breasts are made for feeding your baby. While not every woman may choose to breastfeed long-term, any milk you can provide to your baby will be beneficial for their health and development. Your lifestyle choices, plans for returning to work, and personal preference will all influence your decision to breastfeed.
Many moms worry that their partner will not be as involved in the baby’s care if they breastfeed—but allowing your significant other to burp, diaper and soothe your baby between feedings will provide lots of bonding time and help the whole family feel involved. So why not give it a try?