Why Breastfeed? : Babies

It's World Breastfeeding Week! And I will be celebrating... by nursing the kid. And writing a few posts this week about the wonders of breastfeeding.

I totally get that some women, for various physical or emotional reasons, can't breastfeed. I'm not here to bash formula. But if this decision is still in the future for you, I strongly encourage you to try breastfeeding!

Today, let's talk about how it benefits baby. Breast milk is truly a miraculous substance, perfectly manufactured to completely fill a baby's nutritional needs for an entire year! It has been nice to not worry about whether Oscar is getting the nutrients he needs.

And believe me, this 30-pound kid is NOT starving.

One really cool thing about breast milk is that it changes to match exactly what baby needs at each point in his life. The very first newborn milk, colostrum, is highly concentrated with antibodies that help boost baby's immunity right when he's being exposed to the wonderful world of foreign pathogens; as the baby grows older, the fat content in milk gets increasingly higher to meet baby's increasing caloric needs. He may eat the same volume at one year that he did at three months, but ounce for ounce, the year-old milk has tons more fat!! Then, when it gets hot out (like it is in Virginia right now. I think I know now where Satan takes his summer vacation), breast milk actually gets more watery so that baby gets proper hydration! It is amazing how smart our bodies are!

Another absolutely wonderful feature of breast milk, and my personal favorite, is its disease-fighting properties.

Imagine that you have two of these attached to your chest.

Breast milk is chock-full of antibodies manufactured by mom. If a breastfeeding baby is exposed to a viral disease, he has a much lower chance of getting sick himself if mom is exposed, as well. Mom gets exposed = her  mature immune system quickly makes antibodies = baby receives those antibodies through nursing = baby doesn't get sick. I can personally vouch for this: in the first entire year of his life, Oscar has not gotten a single ear infection! He did get two colds this year, but he recovered pretty quickly.

So now you have the skinny fatty on breast milk itself; what else does it do for Junior? Breastfeeding is much more of a jaw workout than bottlefeeding, which aids in proper jaw and tooth formation. Breastfeeding helps with eye development because the baby feeds on both sides, as opposed to usually being just held in one particular arm to bottlefeed. Breastfed babies are less likely to have allergies and be obese later on, and more likely to score higher on IQ tests.

But you're on your own with the fashion sense.

So many moms beat themselves up for quitting nursing early, but I say, hey, ANY breastfeeding, whether it's for four weeks or four years, is an amazing gift to give your child! Especially in those early weeks, when baby is adjusting to the big, scary outside world with all its pathogens and frightening noises, breastfeeding can boost immunity, help with allergies, comfort baby, and give your child a little help towards a lifetime of health.

So maybe the question shouldn't be, "Why breastfeed?" Why NOT breastfeed? :-D

Still not convinced? Just wait until you hear about the benefits involved for mom tomorrow!

For more breastfeeding info, check out these sites:

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