The Realities of Breastfeeding

The Benefits

Breastfeeding has countless advantages, including its health impact on moms and babies. Today, most hospitals have lactation consultants on hand to help new moms adjust to nursing and even offer support groups for moms.

Healthy babies. Good health begins with breastfeeding. Newborns' immune systems still need time to develop, and breast milk plays an important role in passing on antibodies to help keep babies healthy. Nursing has been found to reduce incidences of ear infections, respiratory infections, asthma, eczema, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and more.

Healthy moms. Researchers are finding that the mother's health is also positively impacted by breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed are seeing reduced risks in breast and ovarian cancers and Type 2 Diabetes. Doctors are also finding that women who don't breastfeed and women who shorten the duration of breastfeeding are more often linked with post-partum depression.

Lose that baby weight. Lactation takes energy, which means it burns calories. Breastfeeding uses around 500 calories a day -- the equivalent to about an hour of jogging -- and helps moms lose their pregnancy weight more quickly. The fat that burns off tends to come from the lower body, particularly from the hips and buttocks.

Potential cost savings. Depending on each mothers' needs, breastfeeding has the potential to be less expensive than purchasing formula. But it's important to keep in mind that breastfeeding can have costs, with such items as breast pump, specialized bras and lactation consultants. It's a good idea to have a breastfeeding fund, just in case. The federally funded Women, Infant and Children program (WIC) now offers breast pumps to mothers in need.

Bonding. When nursing mothers look back on their time spent breastfeeding, they remember the intimacy. It's a quiet, peaceful time where the child is embraced and relies fully on his or her mother. A recent California study found that the longer time a baby spends skin-to-skin with mom during the first three hours after birth is related to the likelihood that the mom will be able to breastfeed exclusively, both in the hospital and longer term.

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