By Iulia Gulia
It’s no secret that I’m a lactivist (lactation+activist), but it’s not because I’m anti-formula or disparaging of moms who bottle feed. It’s simply because, when possible, “breast” really is “best”. The benefits for both mom and baby are abundant!
1.) A LA CARTE ANTIBODIES
A child’s immune system isn’t fully developed until they’re around 5 years of age, but it’s especially vulnerable as a baby. But guess what? Breast milk acts as a custom-ordered immune guard for your baby. When mom interacts with her environment, her body will automatically create antibodies for any germs she encounters. These antibodies are then passed on to the baby through breast milk, thereby offering the little one a great measure of protection against sickness. How amazing is that? You are your baby’s first line of defense.
But it gets even cooler. By now, we all know that there are bad and good bacteria (thank you yogurt commercials), and that maintaining good bacteria is essential for optimal health. Somehow, a mother’s body knows how to differentiate between good and bad bacteria, and will only make antibodies for the bad guys, while promoting a flourishing gut flora in your baby. So not only is breast milk defensive, it’s also intelligent in its defense.
Breastmilk is cheap! The only reason I say cheap instead of free is because you might have to buy some more food for yourself…breastfeeding hunger is no joke. Formula on the other hand…yikes. You can easily spend $150 on formula every month, and that’s if you go with the standard stuff. If you go with specialized formula (like dairy free or organic), we’re talking HUNDREDS of dollars. All that money for something your body can make on its own (and make better, to boot!)
Imagine this…it’s 2:00am, and the baby starts crying. She’s hungry and wants to eat NOW. You have two options:
a.) Pick her up, nurse her (or if you’re co-sleeping, just roll over)
b.) Walk to the kitchen, whilst praying you didn’t forget to prep the night-time bottles. Open the fridge door and squint at the bright light that attacks your eyeballs. Warm the bottle to just the right temperature and then sprint back up stairs because your baby’s cries are now screams.
Ok, maybe I’m over dramatizing this a bit, but there’s certainly a level of convenience that comes with breastfeeding over bottle feeding. No buying formula, no prepping bottles, no cleaning them (have you tried scrubbing out dried milk from the tip of a bottle nipple? it’s a pain)…none of that. Just unveil the goods and you’re done.
4.) BURNING CALORIES…WHILE SITTING
Did you know that for every ounce of milk you produce, you burn 20 calories? Y’all, that’s my kind of exercise! You end up burning between 200-500 calories a day just by nursing your little babe. You’d have to run 3-5 miles just to accomplish that if you were bottle-feeding!
5.) PERFECT NUTRITION
Breastmilk is the perfect food for your little one. Formula does a good job feeding babies too, but because it’s synthetic, it just doesn’t have all of the same properties as breastmilk does. Not only that, but somehow, a momma’s body knows that her baby’s needs change as he/she grows, and the milk changes with it to accommodate those evolving needs. Pretty spectacular. Dr. Sears provides a great comparison between breastmilk and formula here.
6.) HAPPY TIMES
Breastfeeding makes you happy. And I’m not just talking about the “Oh great, I’m doing something good for my baby” happy…I’m talking oxytocin happy. Nursing produces a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “bonding” hormone because it’s released through activities like cuddling, kissing, and well…that thing you did to make your baby in the first place. It makes you feel good.
7.) CANCER PROTECTION
Breastfeeding can actually reduce your risk of breast cancer (especially if you nurse for over a year). It’s still inconclusive as to why this is (theories include hormone production, diet, or full breast maturation), but do we even need a reason? Sign me up!
(NOTE: This post is not meant to judge women who choose to/need to formula feed. I understand that not every woman can breast feed and I’m grateful that a good alternative exists. My intention, instead, is to encourage women who will be or want to be mothers to consider the benefits of breastfeeding.)