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Breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby

Breastfeeding is often thought of as a gift between mother and baby. Not only does it provide bonding time, but the health benefits for both baby and mom are undeniable.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, a month dedicated to educating women and families on the importance of breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the message is being heard. A 2016 report stated breastfeeding rates are increasing and four out of five infants start feeding on breast milk after birth.

However, the benefits of breastfeeding don’t stop after a few months. In fact, studies show that if you continue breastfeeding through your baby’s first birthday, you and your baby can reap more rewards.

How Mom Benefits from Breastfeeding

Moms who breastfeed get both short and long-term benefits. The most immediate benefit is the bond shared with your newborn. The eye contact and skin-to-skin touch you experience during feeding time can create a lasting bond. Other health benefits you experience at the beginning of breastfeeding, include:

• Your uterus will shrink to pre-pregnancy size more quickly because of the hormones you release during breastfeeding.

• Breastfeeding burns calories, so you can lose pregnancy weight faster.

• Time and money are saved because you don’t clean bottles, measure formula, and warm bottles.

• Less stress due to hormones released during breastfeeding.

Moms also see long-term health benefits from breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed have decreased rates of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. Studies also show women with gestational diabetes who breastfeed for more than a year over their lifetime, reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who didn’t breastfeed.

How Your Baby Benefits from Breastfeeding

Many of the benefits for your baby come directly from your breast milk. Your breast milk will even change according to the baby’s needs, especially in the first month.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the healthy benefits your baby will experience because of breastfeeding, include:

• Fewer ear infections, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal diseases, colds and flu. The proteins found in breast milk also fight bacteria.

• Healthy growth and development. The proteins and fats in breast milk help meet the growth needs of babies, especially premature babies.

• Better digestion throughout the baby’s life. Breast milk contains helpful bacteria that benefit the baby’s immune system and metabolism.

• Protection against a variety of diseases and conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity.

• Decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding gives your baby all the nutrition and disease protection needed for normal growth and lifelong disease protection.

Natalie McCullen, RN, BSN, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant with The Birthplace at UPMC Susquehanna. She is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding.

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