By Maryam Maheri
August is National Breastfeeding Month. The amount of information and advice you get when expecting your first baby can be totally overwhelming. There’s a lot to think about before the baby comes. A big decision new mom’s must make for their little one’s nutrition is breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. A number of health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend breastfeeding as the best choice (if you are able to) for babies.
But why Breastfeeding Matters?
Breastfeeding is good for your baby and you! Colostrum, also known as “liquid gold,” is a yellowish, milky fluid that comes before the true “breast milk” during the first few days postpartum. Colostrum contains all sorts of good-for-your-baby nutrients including proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals, as well as antibiotics and immune boosters! Newborn babies have never been exposed to any kind of bacteria, good or bad, so they have no immune system. With breastfeeding you can actually pass these antibodies to your babies to start creating and boosting their immune system! It also has a laxative effect that helps with their first poop experience (gross but necessary). Keep in mind that women don’t produce gallons of colostrum. Instead our bodies produce only a very small amount, so don’t panic. Anyways, babies are born with a stomach the size of a large marble, so they don’t really need that much at all.
Breast milk provides natural antibodies that help your baby resist illness like ear infections. The protein in the breast milk is usually more easily to digest compared to formula so breastfed babies are often less constipated and gassy. Breastfeeding may also raise your child’s intelligence. Studies show breastfed babies have higher levels of cognitive function. Plus it’s less likely to overfeed your baby with breast milk because you only make what your baby needs (hence supply and demand). Breastfeeding may even help your child in later years by reducing the risk of developing allergies, asthma, diabetes, chronic diseases and cancers.
Breastfeeding is not an exclusive benefit for your baby, you get something out of it too! Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and ovarian cancer. It helps our body release a hormone called oxytocin, which can help you bond to your baby, reduce the risk of postpartum depression, and helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Best of all – your body uses calories to make breast milk so it helps you burn more calories during the day and lose the baby weight – woohoo!
Breastfeeding is normal and it doesn’t cost a penny! You don’t have to spend money on formula, nor time on going to the store, you don’t have to lose sleep to get up at night to clean and prepare bottles of formula at each feeding. But let’s not forget a key reason many new moms want to breastfeed. It’s a wonderful bonding experience with your baby.
My name is Maryam. I was born and raised in Iran and moved to USA when I was 21. I graduated from UC Davis with a B.S in Clinical Nutrition and a minor in Human Development and I am a current dietetic intern at San Diego State University (WIC). I have come to believe that the only way we can reach out fullest potential as human beings is to live a healthy lifestyle. The best way to start is by nourishing ourselves with beneficial nutrients. I have particularly found great joy in working with children as well as pregnant women. Through my education and experience, I find that working with this population helps pave the way for improved living later in life, in that better food choices now build better eating habits later.