Breastfeeding 101

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Breastfeeding is a natural part of having a baby and breast milk is a baby's natural first food.
Exclusive breastfeeding - that is, just breastfeeding without any other drink or food - can provide a baby with all the nutrients he/she needs for the first six months of life, and continuing to breastfeed after the first six months has on-going benefits.

Breast milk is designed for babies and is always fresh, clean and safe to consume. It is easy for a baby to digest and can help to prevent gastrointestinal problems such as tummy upsets, constipation or diarrhea.
Breast milk also contains important antibodies which build up a baby's immune system and help to protect a baby from a range of illnesses and diseases.

Breastfeeding may even help to prevent a baby from developing allergies, including allergies to some foods, particularly if breastfeeding continues for more than six months when a baby starts to eat a range of solid foods.
As well as the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding also contributes to the optimal growth and development of a baby's brain, mouth and jaw, speech and eyesight.

Longer term benefits of breastfeeding throughout infancy, childhood and into adulthood include: better general health, and lower rates of blood pressure, cholesterol, overweight, obesity and type 2 diabetes. There is also some evidence to suggest that people who were breastfed as babies perform better in intelligence tests.


In addition to the short and long term benefits of breastfeeding for babies, there are also significant benefits for mothers who breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding is a nurturing activity and from the time of birth it can be an important part of mother - baby bonding.


Other Benefits:

  1. Reduces the risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
  2. Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation. It is thought that the less estrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and perhaps breast tissue also, the less the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous.
  3. Lessens osteoporosis. Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.
  4. Benefits child spacing. Since breastfeeding delays ovulation, the longer a mother breastfeeds the more she is able to practice natural child spacing, if she desires. How long a woman remains infertile depends on her baby's nursing pattern and her own individual baby.
  5. Promotes emotional health. Not only is breastfeeding good for mother's body, it's good for her mind. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers show less postpartum anxiety and depression than do formula-feeding mothers.
  6. Promotes postpartum weight loss. Breastfeeding mothers showed significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and more fat loss by one month postpartum when compared with formula-feeding moms. Breastfeeding mothers tend to have an earlier return to their pre-pregnant weight.
As welcome as all of these benefits are, though, most mothers put the feeling of maternal fulfilment at the top of their list of reasons for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides a unique emotional experience for the nursing mother and the baby. Breastfeeding is the one parenting behaviour that only the mother can do for her baby, creating a unique and powerful physical and emotional connection. Your partner, the baby’s siblings, and other relatives can all appreciate the new member of the family being welcomed in such a loving way.
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