When lactating parents are told about the benefits of breastfeeding, the focus is often placed on the benefits to the child and not on the lactating parent.
While the benefits of breastmilk for infants are well understood, many new and expectant parents are not aware of the benefits associated with breastfeeding for lactating parents.
Benefits for Baby
When lactating parents make the choice to breastfeed, there are a variety of factors that contribute to this decision.
Infants have underdeveloped immune systems, and if they are exposed to sickness, their body struggles more than older children and adults to fight off the illness. If the infant is breastfeeding, and the breastfeeding parent has also been exposed to the same illness, her body will produce the antibodies needed to fight off the sickness and share them with the baby through the breast milk.
Adaptation of Milk Nutrients and Supply
Most lactating parents tend to produce the amount of milk and nutrients needed for their children. In fact, after the initial colostrum period–which is full of rich nutrients— a mother’s breast milk continues to change with the age and needs of their child.
Women have both foremilk and hindmilk. The foremilk helps to satisfy the thirst of your child, and is mostly made of water with some nutrients. If your baby continues to breastfeed, they will get the hindmilk. This milk has a high fat content and is full of nutrients. It is this milk that tends to be more satiating.
Reduction in Negative Health Outcomes
Studies have found that a child who is breastfed has a significant reduction in negative health outcomes. Among some of the most notable are a decrease in allergies as well as a decrease in instances of diabetes.
The ABCs of Breastfeeding
A lactating parent should be aware of the ABCs of breastfeeding in order to be more prepared for the task.
Lactating parents or caregivers should be in tune with the needs of the infant, and look for proper cues that show the baby is hungry and ready to eat.
Babies typically nurse for 10-20 minutes on each breast. The younger the baby, the more time it takes to nurse. Additionally, if you are detaching the baby before they are ready, they are less likely to be ingesting the hind milk, which is more satiating. This satiation is essential if you want your baby, and subsequently yourself, to sleep well.
In order to have greater success when breastfeeding your baby, ensure that you are comfortable and well supported. This comfort will also help with your milk “let down,” helping to better feed your child.
Benefits for the Mother
Burns More Calories
Although this is very surface level, it is quite important to women as they adjust to their new postpartum body. A breastfeeding mother burns approximately an additional 500 calories per day when she nurses. Remember to get enough food and hydration during this time so that you can produce enough milk for your child.
Ease of Use
When you choose to breastfeed your infant, and overcome the learning curve, the mechanisms can be easier than bottle feeding. You are not beholden to always having supplies on hand to feed your child, but can instead nurse on demand, wherever and whenever your baby needs.
Reduction in Health Risks
Women that breastfeed have shown to have a decrease in negative health outcomes. Due to this decision, their chances of osteoporosis decrease, as well as some cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Nursing also helps to increase your oxytocin levels, enabling your uterus to contract better postpartum, as well as aid in bonding with your new child.
Breastfeeding your child saves you money. The longer you breastfeed, the more money you will save over time. For the fiscally conservative and aware individual, this is a big selling feature.
Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges
Proper lactation care and lactation support from an International Board of Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help aid a new parent in the best practices to better equip them for success when breastfeeding. Especially in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, you will need additional care, support, education, and tools in order to increase your chances of reaching your breastfeeding goals.
By scheduling an in-person consultation with a licensed lactation specialist, IBCLCs can help provide the lactation education you need, and support you as they answer questions and calm concerns that are specific to your experience throughout your breastfeeding journey.
The benefits of breastfeeding for both child and adult are well understood and documented. Don’t be afraid to contact a lactation specialist to better equip yourself in providing the best nutrition possible for your child.