Deciding how to feed your newborn is one of the most important choices you will make as you await the birth of your baby. If you’re looking for solid advice, listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics—it recommends that you breastfeed exclusively for approximately the first six months. The benefits of breastfeeding extend to both you and your little one.
Your baby benefits from colostrum, an early type of breast milk produced for several days immediately following your baby’s birth. This yellowish, thick milk contains the ideal combination of readily digestible proteins, fats and carbohydrates to nourish your newborn. In addition to providing balanced nutrition, colostrum is a source of protective antibodies, such as immunoglobulin A, or IgA. IgA protects the mucous membranes in your newborn’s throat, lungs and intestines. Colostrum also contains white cells called leukocytes. Leukocytes can kill viruses and bacteria that can sicken your baby.
Immune System Superhero
After breast milk replaces colostrum, your baby’s immune system continues to benefit from the antibodies, cells and hormones found exclusively in a mom’s breast milk. Your breastfed baby has a diminished risk for developing ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, wheezing and bronchiolitis. Your breast milk contains the nutrients and calories your baby’s growing body requires to promote the healthy development of organs. Breastfeeding minimizes the risk of digestive problems common when a baby’s sensitive digestive system must process cow’s milk.
Breastfeeding and Bonding
Breastfeeding during the first months helps to build the bonding process, or special attachment that exists between you and your baby. Breastfeeding provides your baby with exposure to your smell, your touch and your voice, as well as eye contact. The skin-to-skin contact comforts your little one and assures her that you will respond to her needs.
Advantages for Moms
Moms too can smile about some of the benefits they receive from breastfeeding during the first months. The physical contact that facilitates bonding for your baby is soothing for you as well and strengthens attachment to your baby. There’s more. If you fret about the weight you may have gained during your pregnancy, breastfeeding can help you take off those pounds by burning extra calories. And breastfeeding triggers the release of a hormone that helps your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size.