I am sure the title has now gotten your attention. Let me explain why ANY size family will benefit from breastfeeding, improving your family dynamic in more ways...than you probably imagined.
If you are expecting a baby, the time to start thinking about breastfeeding is now. There are preparations you can make to support your breastfeeding decision: with your spouse and your mom (studies have shown in some cultures that have the mother’s mother supporting her, greatly influences the success of the breastfeeding mommy).* Reading books and joining breastfeeding support groups is considering very beneficial to do before and after baby is born. Another idea is making breastfeeding support items (pumps, nursing bras, great dresses and shirts that make nursing easy) as part of your baby shower registry.
Many of you have probably heard why it is good to breastfeed your baby…higher IQ, stronger immune system, less colds, reduced asthma and eczema episodes, reduced risk of juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer prior to the age of 15, as well as several recent studies that have shown that children who were breast-fed are significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood. A large UK research study (10,000 boys) co-author Associate Professor Wendy Oddy said in a media release:
"We know that there are vital nutrients in breast milk that support brain development, particularly in terms of long-chain fatty acids....Previous studies have shown that breastfeeding accelerates boys' maturation. Males are also known to be more vulnerable to adversity during critical periods of development than females; therefore the neuro-protective effect of estrodiols, the female hormones, in breast milk, would have greater benefits for boys."**
This is a very significant statement in light of the dramatic (and as yet, not fully explained) rise in autism spectrum disorders, particularly high in males. The current birth impact is 1/88. This is a tremendous shift from just 40 years ago. It’s important to take note.
The World Health Organization recommends babies are breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months of life, with complementary foods and breastfeeding recommended up to two years of age. This significantly reduces allergies and increases immune system benefits.
Benefits for the Family
- Breastfeeding reduces the size of the uterus after birth, so you get back into your favorite pair of jeans sooner rather than later which reduces your risk of obesity. It reduces the risk and frequency of some cysts and cancers.
- There is one more important point: breastfeeding reduces your STRESS!
- Yes, this amazing all natural stress reducer not only helps you produce hormones that reduce your stress, but because you chose to breastfeed, you get more sleep, and that reduces your stress (and your spouse’s).
- Babies who are breastfed get their food sooner, so there is less waiting for formula preparation. Babies who are fed sooner get less air in their belly. Less air means less spitting up, and getting back to sleep…that means you get back to sleep sooner, too.
- Breast milk is always the right temperature-never a worry that it might be too hot. Breast milk is ready to serve, and with only a few exceptions, there is usually enough of it. (Exceptions are in certain foods moms should not eat that will decrease the baby’s supply: dill (the herb), alcohol (yes, this is a highly controversial issue, I know, but trust me, you can go without the drinks, can’t you?) and a few other no-no’s.
Now, if your sleep improves and stress is reduced…we have a happier spouse don’t we? Have multiple children in the toddler range? Not to worry-if one of them wants to imitate baby, the world will NOT come to an end. The average world nursing average is 4.5 years. Americans seem to have some pretty big hang-ups about doing what is natural and healthy for their babies-it is an aberration in global statistics. So…if you have multiple children at nursing stage, don’t worry. It aids them all. The areoles of the breast are very intelligent, and actually sense the needs of the nursing child via the saliva and provide the proper nutrition for all. No worries. Relax. Even adoptive mothers can breastfeed since those smart areoles send signals to the pituitary gland to begin the production of prolactin. We have the smartest bodies, don’t we?
Hey dads- you are not out of this. There are breast feeding males in some cultures, and if that is just too far out to you, just imagine the nights of additional sleep you will have with baby breasting and not needing to make, heat and feed baby a bottle. This will also mean less crying at night to wake the family, because the breast is right there.
Imagine saving up to $800-1200 a year on average from formula costs! Breastfeeding is free. That’s a lot of money for weekends relaxing, dinners and a movie, etc. Babies who need fewer antibiotics for things like ear infections (breastfed babies get fewer infections) are happier babies. Less illness means more money in your pocket and less doctor’s visits in inclement weather, missing days of work, less chaos.
Children with healthier immune systems miss less school and day care; that not only saves you money now, but in the years to come.
Our children are only little for a little while. It seems some days that they will wake us up at 4 am forever, but they won’t. There are a couple short years that they want to spend in our arms, under our armpits, and thinking parents are the smartest, coolest people in the universe. Then, those years are gone. As hectic and stressful as they can be, these are precious times. Try to enjoy them more by doing one simple process that is a win-win for everyone.
Breastfeed your baby; your family will thank you. One day, so will your baby.
- *Ertem, I.,Votto, N., & Leventhal, J. (2001). The timing and predictors of early termination of breastfeeding. Pediatrics 107(3), 543-548.
- **Mother and Baby Magazine, citing the UK study on boys and breastfeeding; impacts on intelligence, Oxford University 1997-2001, along with a companion study in Western Australia-The Raine Study, which was conducted by the Telethon Institute and the School of Women's and Infant's Health at the University of Western Australia. The results are published in the January 2011 issue of international health journal Pediatrics.
- Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC)
- Gabriel-Doxtater, B. K., & Van den Hende, A. K. (1995). At the Wood’s edge. Quebec: Kanesatake Education Center.
- Health Canada. (1999). Nutrition for healthy pregnancy: National guidelines for childbearing years. Ottawa: Department of Public Works and Government Services.
- Houghton, M., & Graybeal, T. (2001). Breast-feeding practices of Native American mothers participating in WIC, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(2), 245-247.
- Prevention of hypertension in adulthood by breastfeeding, Midwifery Today (62).Moreland, J., & Coombs, J. (2000).
- Promoting and supporting breast-feeding. American Family Physician, 61(7), 2093-2100
- Breastfeeding Milla, by Angela Worthington, Midwifery Today, Spring 2012, Number 101