All Blogs | 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

All Blogs | 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

Welcome to the world of breastfeeding, where you embark on a journey filled with moments of connection to your baby and with your ever-changing body. As a breastfeeding mama, you have an extraordinary ability to nurture and support your baby’s nutrition, while simultaneously reaping a bunch of health benefits for your body. From lowering your baby's risk for illness by supporting their immune system to reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and diabetes for yourself, breastfeeding can truly be a gift to your body and your baby. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper and explore six surprising health benefits of breastfeeding.

An infographic outlining 6 benefits of breastfeeding.

1. Microbiota and Your Baby's Immune System

Breastfeeding plays a crucial role in shaping your baby's immune system and offers a multitude of health benefits, including lowering your baby’s risk for some common illnesses. This can happen through passing mama’s microbiota to baby through the breast milk. The act of breastfeeding provides many more health benefits than just nutrition; breast milk can be a powerful source of beneficial bacteria, prebiotics, and antibodies. These components work together to establish and nurture a healthy gut microbiome in babies, which in turn strengthens their immune response and safeguards them against harmful pathogens.

The antibodies present in breast milk, such as immunoglobulin A (IgA), act as the first line of defense against infections. IgA forms a protective barrier by coating the baby's gut, respiratory tract, and other mucous membranes, providing a lower risk for harmful bacteria and viruses. Additionally, breast milk contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which are special sugars that selectively nourish beneficial bacteria in the baby's gut. This selective nourishment promotes the growth of a healthy microbiota, further strengthening the immune system of a breastfed baby.

Numerous studies have highlighted the health benefits of breastfeeding.. Breastfed babies experience fewer respiratory infections, ear infections, and gastrointestinal illnesses when compared to babies fed with baby formula. Furthermore, breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing allergies, asthma, and eczema. These protective effects of breastfeeding on the immune system can have many health benefits that last long-term, supporting the health of a breastfed baby well into adulthood.

2. Bonding With Your Baby

Breastfeeding your little one offers more than just health benefits. It’s also an incredible bonding experience that creates an unbreakable connection between you and your baby. The physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact, and eye contact during breastfeeding trigger the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone."

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that is responsible for milk let down from the back of the breast to the nipple and also promotes feelings of relaxation, trust, and emotional bonding. When you breastfeed, oxytocin floods your system, creating a sense of warmth and connection. It enhances the bond between mamas and breastfed babies, fostering a deep emotional attachment and even better let-down.

The act of breastfeeding is a nurturing experience that provides comfort, security, and closeness for both you and your baby. The intimate moments shared during breastfeeding create a unique opportunity for you to focus solely on your little one, tuning into their needs, and providing the physical and emotional support they crave.

Breastfeeding also contributes to a mother's sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. The knowledge that you are providing your baby with the best possible nutrition and the emotional connection forged through breastfeeding can boost your self-esteem and overall well-being, and continue helping you breastfeed successfully.

A mother, father, and their two small children sit at a dinner table having a meal.

3. Necessary Nutrients for Early Development

More benefits of breastfeeding your baby include providing them with necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development. Breast milk has a unique way of serving breastfed babies a personalized nutrition plan, tailored to meet the developmental needs at each stage of their early life.

The composition of breast milk is a symphony of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive compounds, all working together to support your baby's growth and overall well-being. The proteins in breast milk are easily digestible and perfectly balanced to provide necessary health benefits for optimal growth, like muscle development. Carbohydrates in breast milk also provide a readily available energy source for your baby's active lifestyle.

Essential fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), are found in breast milk and play a critical role in your baby’s early development. Your baby’s growing body readily absorbs these healthy fats and supports the development of their cognitive abilities.

Since your baby isn’t quite ready to receive the nutrient benefits from solid foods, breast milk naturally contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals vital for your baby's health. It provides the perfect balance of nutrients, ensuring your little one receives everything they need to thrive. For example, breast milk is a good source of calcium, which supports the development of strong bones and teeth.

In addition to these essential nutrients, breast milk contains bioactive compounds, enzymes, and growth factors that provide unique benefits to your baby. Lactoferrin, found in breast milk, helps enhance your baby's immune system and protects against common infections like ear infections. Breast milk also contains antibodies that specifically target pathogens your baby is exposed to, providing additional protection.

The composition of breast milk is dynamic and changes throughout your breastfeeding journey to meet the changing needs of your growing baby. Colostrum, the first milk produced after birth, is rich in antibodies and helps boost your baby's immune system. As breastfeeding continues, the milk transitions to mature milk, adapting its composition to provide the ideal nutrition for your baby's development and healthy weight gain. Pretty interesting, right? Your body knows what your baby needs and is willing to adapt to provide the ultimate benefits of breastfeeding at every stage of the journey.

4. Convenience of Feeding

Breastfeeding offers unparalleled convenience for moms, making it a superpower in itself, especially when mama is low on energy, short on time, and desperately in need of a nap. Exclusive breastfeeding means that it eliminates the need for sterilizing bottles, measuring formula, or preparing feeds in the middle of the night. Milk from a mama is always at the perfect temperature, providing breastfed babies with milk that's ready to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.

Breastfeeding is especially convenient during nighttime feedings or if you forgot to breast pump earlier. Instead of fumbling in the dark, preparing bottles and warming them up, you can simply snuggle up with your baby and nourish them with the warmth and comfort of your own body. This convenience not only saves you time and effort but also helps you and your baby maintain a peaceful sleep routine.

Breastfeeding also brings financial benefits. Feeding with baby formula can be super expensive, with the costs accumulating over time. By breastfeeding, you eliminate the need to purchase formula, bottles, and other feeding supplies. The savings can be significant, giving you more financial freedom to invest in other areas of your baby's well-being.

Another exclusive breastfeeding benefit is that it’s environmentally friendly. It reduces waste from disposable formula containers, packaging, and feeding equipment. By opting for breastfeeding, you're making a positive impact on the planet and promoting a sustainable future for your little one.

5. Risk Reduction of Cancers and Diabetes

Breastfeeding can act as a shield against the risk of certain types of cancer and diabetes for some moms benefitting both you and your baby. It provides a superhero-like cape of protection for a women’s health long-term.

For some mamas, the benefits of breastfeeding have been linked to a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The act of breastfeeding triggers hormonal changes in your body that help regulate cell growth and minimize the risk of abnormal cell development that can lead to breast and ovarian cancer in the future. This protection against breast and ovarian cancer extends years after breastfeeding, providing lasting benefits.

Breastfeeding also offers significant women’s health advantages in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It helps stabilize blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity, making your body more efficient at using glucose. By breastfeeding, you give your body a powerful tool to help defend against the development of diabetes later in life . Additionally, breastfeeding benefits have been linked to a reduced risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.

For babies, the benefits of breastfeeding can potentially help lower their risk of certain childhood cancers, such as leukemia. The antibodies and other bioactive compounds present in breast milk provide protective effects against the development of cancer cells. And as mentioned earlier, breast milk also supports overall immune function, strengthening your baby's natural defenses against various common illnesses.

6. Returning to Pre-Pregnancy Weight Faster

Mamas, we totally understand some of your desires to lose weight and regain your pre-pregnancy self. The good news is that breastfeeding can be your secret weapon for shedding those extra pounds and returning to your desired weight faster. 

A woman holds her baby while she looks at her body in a mirror.

When you breastfeed, your body burns extra calories to produce milk—approximately 500 calories a day. It's like having a built-in calorie-burning superpower! This increased use of energy can help you gradually and healthily lose weight gained during pregnancy. And the best part? It happens naturally, without the need for restrictive diets or intense exercise regimens.

Breastfeeding also offers emotional benefits that contribute to your overall well-being and body image. The intimate bond created during breastfeeding can boost your self-esteem and confidence as a mother. This emotional support can positively impact your mental health and help you feel more comfortable and confident in your postpartum body.

Ready to experience all the breastfeeding benefits?

Breastfeeding is not only a beautiful and nurturing experience, but it also possesses superpowers that bring a multitude of surprising health benefits. From building a robust immune system to fostering an unbreakable bond, providing essential nutrients, aiding in weight loss, and reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and diabetes, breastfeeding is filled with incredible surprises.

If you’re looking for an easy way to help boost your breast milk supply or simply need support for the postpartum journey, check out our products like our Milkflow drink mixes that are packed with lactation consultant-recommended ingredients to support your body and your baby.

By embracing breastfeeding and understanding its unique advantages, you empower yourself and your baby with a strong foundation for lifelong health. Remember, breastfeeding benefits are not just about providing nutrition; it's about the journey of creating a profound connection and experiencing the joy and wonder of nurturing your little one.