hands holding a baby in a blanket
Author: TLN

How breastfeeding helps your baby grow up healthy 

As you prepare for your little one’s arrival, you may wonder if breastfeeding is right for you. Scientifically, breast milk is the gold standard when it comes to nutrition for most babies. But breastfeeding is often challenging in the early days, and it’s a learned skill that can take some time to master. Unfortunately, many new parents feel so overwhelmed, frustrated, and pressured that they give up sooner than they really want to. 

There’s no need for guilt if things don’t go exactly as planned, or if you need additional support. The benefits of breastfeeding are plentiful, and there’s more help available than you may realize. Below are some of the ways that nursing serves your baby’s health. 

Breast milk delivers optimal nutrition

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for approximately 6 months after birth.” Furthermore, the AAP supports continued breastfeeding, along with appropriate complementary foods introduced at about 6 months, as long as mutually desired by mother and child for 2 years or beyond. These recommendations are consistent with those of the World Health Organization (WHO). Medical contraindications to breastfeeding are rare. 

The first type of milk that new parents produce after birth is a thick, yellow-tinted protein called colostrum, which is packed with vitamins and nutrients. A few days after birth, your breasts begin to supply the milk you’re likely more used to seeing — the milk that will continue to lay the foundation for your baby’s well-being. 

Builds your baby’s immunity

Breast milk contains essential antibodies that can help your little one fight off viruses and bacteria. Babies who are not breastfed have a higher risk of developing health issues like diarrhea and infection. As always, check with your healthcare provider or IBCLC for tailored assistance as you and your little one navigate early feedings — as well as any concerns about your milk production. 

Wards off childhood disease 

Your milk can help protect your baby from respiratory tract infections as well as ear infections. Nursing can also aid prevention of gastrointestinal illnesses, food allergies, asthma, and diabetes. Remarkably, babies who are exclusively breastfed until two months of age or older have been found to experience a 73% lower risk of contracting sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. Babies who are breastfed for six months or more are 19% less vulnerable to childhood leukemia. 

Promotes healthy weight gain

Breastfed babies may have an easier time learning to eat intuitively. From day one, they self-regulate their milk consumption, and practice eating only until they’re satisfied. Babies fed breast milk may also develop higher amounts of healthy gut bacteria, as well as the hormone leptin, both of which can help regulate fat storage throughout life. Many breast milk substitutes contain cow’s milk or added sugars, which can negatively affect your child’s weight. 

May enhance your baby’s brain function

Not only do the nutrients in breastmilk allow for optimal infant brain development, the physical intimacy and connection associated with nursing may also contribute to your baby’s cognitive skills. Plus, the oral-motor function used when breastfeeding leads to enhanced oral development. This can help them hit key developmental milestones and make them less likely to require speech therapy when they’re older.  

Ultimately, breastfeeding for any length of time is good for your baby in a myriad of ways. If you do decide to breastfeed, The Lactation Network can connect you to an IBCLC for a consultation covered under your insurance, and deliver a breast pump to your door at no out-of-pocket cost to you.  

You have options. And with the support of our dedicated lactation consultants, you’ve totally got this. 

Get the care you deserve

We’re here for you, every step of the way. We work with your insurance to provide in-home, in-office, or telehealth visits with an IBCLC.