There is something simply magical about breastfeeding. No doubt: It can be difficult to get the hang of, and sometimes a pain to overcome challenges along the way (hello, teeth!). But when you add up all the crazy ways that breastfeeding benefits you and your baby, it’s really a no-brainer.
[NOTE: For some moms, it’s just not possible to breastfeed. And that’s when we have to say thank God that formula exists, right?]
Here are some crazy-cool ways that nursing makes you and your baby healthier:
#1: Breastmilk Adjusts
Breastmilk is a naturally balanced combo of fat, sugar, water, and protein that provides nourishment and quenches your baby’s thirst.
And, the nutrients in breastmilk naturally change as your baby grows. It gives your child exactly what she needs at the right time.
#2: Releases Feel-Good Hormones
When you nurse, your body releases two hormones: serotonin and oxytocin. Those hormones make you feel relaxed and loving (like an after-work glass of wine).
#3: Speeds Your Recovery
Nursing releases the hormone oxytocin, which can give you a mild cramping sensation in the early days of breastfeeding. That’s because it causes your uterus to contract and shrink back to its normal size faster. Nursing may also lessen your postpartum bleeding (say goodbye to granny pads!).
#4: Keeps Your Period Away
Good news: Constantly breastfeeding – day and night – and only breastfeeding can postpone the return of your period. You probably won’t get a menstrual cycle until your little one starts eating solids around six months old.
#5: Burns Calories
You read that right. Breastfeeding burns about 400 to 500 extra calories a day. So go ahead, indulge in that extra something you’ve been craving. Just don’t go too nuts – think hearty snack, not dessert buffet.
#6: Prevents Sickness
Breastmilk is packed with antibodies that fight off germs and keep your baby from catching colds and other illnesses. In fact, not only will your baby get protection from everything your immune system has successfully fought off in the past, but anything your child is exposed to in the present.
During breastfeeding, experts believe that your baby passes germs to you (maybe from a sniffly aunt who insisted on holding your baby). Your body then makes antibodies in response. At the next feeding, your little one gets a boost of germ-fighters that your body produced.
Excited to breastfeed? When I started out, I had no idea that it actually took practice to get the swing of it. But once you learn the key to successful breastfeeding, it’ll be far easier and faster than pumping or warming up a bottle.
Doing a little prep work before your baby arrives makes nursing more enjoyable, too. Things like recording your favorite shows, stocking the kitchen with healthy snacks you can eat with one hand, and making sure you have all the breastfeeding essentials.
Above all, try to cherish your special bonding time. I know that’s easier said than done when you’re getting by on two minutes of sleep or stressed out from the work-life juggle. But, there’s nothing else like breastfeeding, and you’re the only one who gets to do it with your child.
And, if you’re like me, one day when your kids no longer need to nurse and you’ve closed the baby-making factory, you’ll feel a pang of sadness knowing you’ll never breastfeed again. So try, really try to give breastfeeding a go, reap all the health benefits and soak up every minute of closeness.