Advantages To Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your newborn has many advantages. Perhaps most important, breast milk is the perfect food for a human baby’s digestive system. It contains the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires, and all of its components — lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat — are easily digested by a newborn’s immature system. Commercial formulas try to imitate breast milk, and come close, but the exact composition cannot be duplicated.

Breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect infants from a wide variety of infectious diseases, including diarrhea. Studies suggest that breastfed babies are less likely to develop certain medical problems, including diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, and allergies. Breastfeeding may also decrease the chances that the child will become overweight or obese.

Breastfeeding is great for moms, too. It burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms get back into shape quicker. Breastfeeding may also protect mom from breast and ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding meets a variety of emotional needs for both moms and babies — the skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection and providing complete nourishment can help a new mother feel confident in her ability to care for her newborn. (Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD    Date reviewed: August 2008)