Making the decision to breast-feed

Breastfeeding has important health benefits for both mother and baby


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When you breastfeed, you give your baby a healthy start that lasts a lifetime. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. Breastfeeding saves lives, money, and time.

The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk help protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby’s growing needs.

Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, leukemia (during childhood), obesity (during childhood), ear infections, eczema (atopic dermatitis), diarrhea and vomiting, lower respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), type 2 diabete,s and necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in premature babies, or babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Your breastmilk helps your baby grow healthy and strong from day one. Your first milk is liquid gold. Called liquid gold for its deep yellow color, colostrum is the thick first milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and includes antibodies to protect your baby from infections.

Colostrum also helps your newborn's digestive system to grow and function. Your baby gets only a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, because the stomach of a newborn infant is tiny and can hold only a small amount.

Your milk changes as your baby grows. Colostrum changes into mature milk by the third to fifth day after birth. This mature milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby continue to grow. It looks thinner than colostrum, but it has the nutrients and antibodies your baby needs for healthy growth.

Good for mom tooBreastfeeding also helps a mother's health and healing following childbirth, leading to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer, and ovarian cancerBesides giving your baby nourishment and helping to keep your baby from becoming sick, breastfeeding may help you lose weight. Many women who breastfed their babies said it helped them get back to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, but experts are still looking at the effects of breastfeeding on weight loss.

In addition, during an emergency, such as a natural disaster, breastfeeding can save your baby's life, protecting your baby from the risks of an unclean water supply and against respiratory illnesses and diarrhea.

Your milk is always at the right temperature for your baby. It helps to keep your baby's body temperature from dropping too low, and is always available without needing other supplies.

For more information, visit women'shealth.gov.

Source: Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: women'shealth.gov,
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