Just for fun I thought I would make a list of some great things to know about breastfeeding. The breastfeeding benefits are too numerous to count, so this is just an abbreviated list of some awesome things I love about breastfeeding.
Baby's first immunity
While pregnant a mother passes antibodies to her fetus through the placenta. The immunity from these antibodies lasts for weeks after birth. Breastfed infants also gain extra protection from antibodies and the immunity they receive through your breast milk.
I loved knowing that my baby was as protected as possible in those early weeks after birth. Breastfeeding throughout the first year seemed to have a very protective effect and any illness was extremely mild. It made feel good to know I was doing all I could to protect my baby.
Another cool thing about this, if mom is sick then her baby will still be exposed to the illness but gets her antibodies and most likely will not get sick. Baby becomes automatically immune to the illness. I got bad colds in the weeks after the birth of both of my babies and neither one caught it or has ever caught anything from me.
Breastfeeding helps shrink the uterus back to size after birth
The hormone oxytocin is released every time you breastfeed. This causes contractions which help shrink the uterus back down quickly after birth. Some women may experience cramps from this although I never found them noticeable (compared to all the other aches after birth ouch!). Breastfeeding also reduces postpartum recovery and speeds overall healing.
Usually no period for mom for a long time
Exclusively breastfeeding will usually keep you from ovulating and having your period. While it is possible for it to return quickly after birth, it stays away for most women. Some women use breastfeeding as birth control. From my understanding this only works for the first six months or so and if you are breastfeeding around the clock every 2-3 hours. Following those rules it should be 98% effective as birth control. I would still use a back up method of birth control unless you really don't mind an oops.. But how cool to not have your period for months or even more than a year?
Some other awesome benefits for the breastfeeding mom
Beyond shrinking your uterus back down to size or no period, there are some other great benefits for mom.
Breastfeeding can burn between 300-500 calories a day. Who doesn't like that benefit?
Some studies have shown that breastfeeding reduces a woman's chance of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. And some studies have shown that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A great excuse and reason to rest
Breastfeeding is demanding. It's not always easy and it can be exhausting but it is possible to get a lot of rest while doing it. When breastfeeding take advantage of this time to rest with your baby. Chill out on the couch for hours and watch tv, eat, drink do whatever you need to do while breastfeeding. Set up camp and just rest as much as you can with your baby. I'll admit I didn't really figure this out right away the first time around, but the second time I sure did take advantage of it. There will be plenty of time for cooking meals, cleaning and doing stuff once your baby is older. And it's a great way to keep your baby to yourself and not have to share with all your visitors. As soon as baby needed to eat that was it, baby was all mine again 🙂
This is a huge one for me. Everyone knows babies are a big drain on the wallet. Well formula is expensive. So are bottles, sterilizers, bottle warmers and all the other devices involved in bottle feeding.
Now in all fairness if you are pumping you will spend some money too. And I have dropped some money on nursing bras and clothes but overall it is much less than the monthly cost of formula. Plus, many nursing bras and clothes can be converted and still used once you are done nursing.
No doubt about it, being able to feed your baby anywhere, anytime needed is very convenient. While nursing in public can be intimidating there are many ways to conveniently feed your baby when out and about without drawing any attention to yourself.
Not needing to remember bottles and formula or tote them around was a big benefit for me. And not needing to wash those bottles, deal with preparing formula or find hot water is also very convenient.
At night not having to get out of bed and prepare a bottle is an added convenience. I can't really imagine what is involved since I have never had to do it. But for me just rolling over and grabbing my baby (while room sharing), breastfeeding, and then falling back to sleep is very convenient.
Comfort baby, no troubleshooting needed
One of my favorite things about breastfeeding is the ability to comfort my baby anytime for any reason through nursing. There is not much troubleshooting needed. For those times babies just fuss without an obvious cause or need some soothing, breastfeeding is usually a cure all.
Cluster feeding to get through the witching hour
That period of time where your baby cries for hours each evening with no discernible cause? That's the witching hour and it's totally normal. That doesn't make it any easier to get through though. But you know what does make it easier? Breastfeeding. I spent many hours nursing my babies through the witching hour. Once I figured out that cluster feeding for hours worked so well I embraced it. My husband brought me dinner on the couch and we binge watched TV while cluster feeding through those early weeks.
Bonding, holding and cuddling
And the number one greatest thing about breastfeeding? All the time you get to spend bonding, holding and cuddling with your baby. There is nothing like it in life and it passes by very quickly. Try to enjoy it because the breastfeeding years will be over before you know it.