When supermodel and mom Gisele Bundchen famously declared that breast-feeding should be required by law, she re-ignited an age-old debate. Is breast-feeding really better? Bundchen isn't the only one to tout the effects of feeding your offspring the old fashioned way (and we've all heard it burns up to 500 calories a day).
There is a downside too. Some women simply don't make enough milk, their babies aren't able to "latch on" properly, other health issues or illnesses prevent it entirely, or for some women, it's a fear that breast-feeding can lead to sagging and volume loss in breasts (an issue looked at in-depth in The Bra Book). Plus, sometimes it's just plain painful!
So whether you prefer the bottle or the boob, here are seven good reasons to choose the latter.
1. Feel the Burn
Plain and simple, breast-feeding burns calories! "Our bodies burn almost 20 calories to make just an ounce of breast milk. If your baby eats 19-30 ounces a day, that's anywhere between 380-600 calories burned," says Joy Kosak, co-founder of Simple Wishes, a hands-free pumping bra.
It can also help eliminate that post-pregnancy pooch. "When you nurse, your body releases certain hormones that shrink your uterus back down to its former pre-pregnant size," says Elisabeth Dale, author of Boobs: a Guide to your Girls.
What do both of these things mean? You'll be back in your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans before you know it!
2. Ward Off Disease
Studies have found that the longer a woman breast-feeds, the more she is protected against certain types of cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer. Breast-feeding can also potentially lower your risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
The stress of a new baby is enough to drive any woman over the edge. "It has been documented that women who stopped breast-feeding early on or didn't breast-feed altogether were at a higher risk of postpartum depression than breast-feeding moms," Kosak says.
While the jury is still out on this claim, it does provide hope for women who suffer from this devastating condition.
4. It's a Natural High
That same hormone that helps shrink your uterus back to size also makes you feel good—really good.
"When you nurse your baby, your body releases a big dose of hormones. Oxytocin, or the "bonding" hormone as it's commonly known, sends a feeling of relaxation and euphoria to your brain," Dale says.
5. It's Cheap
Obviously, if you're feeding your baby breast milk, you're not spending your precious cash on bottles or expensive formula.
"Since raising a child doesn't come cheap, you can take those extra pennies and start up that college fund," Dale adds.
Breast milk contains all the vitamins and nutrients needed for the first six months of your baby's life, along with disease-fighting substances designed to protect your little one from obesity, diabetes and asthma, among other illnesses.
"Not to mention that breast milk is proven to help protect your baby from developing allergies and helps to reduce the risk of infection," Kosak says.
Because of antibodies in mom's milk, breastfed babies have 50 to 95 percent fewer infections than other babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
7. It's Convenient
In the age of multi-tasking mamas, solutions have surfaced to make breast-feeding today more convenient. Whether it's going back to work and needing a hands-free pumping solution or alcohol testing strips that allow you to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine at the end of the day without worry, there is an abundance of products and services available for today's modern nursing mom!