There are many advantages of breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant. For the infant, breastfeeding provides nutritional advantages and exposure to antibodies that can prevent illness or minimize his symptoms if he does get sick. There is even some evidence that breastfeeding influences an infant's intelligence as well. This form of feeding also encourages bonding between a mother and her child. Breastfeeding may benefit the mother by helping her lose weight and experience less stress; it may also reduce a woman’s risk of developing certain types of cancer.
The main advantage of breastfeeding is nutritional. Most health experts agree that the best nutrition for an infant who is under six months of age is breast milk. Typically, an infant who is less than six months old can get all of the nutrients he needs from his mother’s milk. Breast milk supplies the right balance of protein, vitamins, minerals, milk sugar, and fat to meet an infant's unique needs.
Antibodies are also among the advantages of breastfeeding. When an infant is exclusively breastfed for the first six weeks of his life, he gets antibodies from his mother that may help prevent a range of illnesses, including ear infections and stomach viruses. If an infant does become ill, his symptoms may be less severe because of the presence of these antibodies. Additionally, breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies. Babies who are formula fed do not enjoy these protections.
Some studies even show that breastfeeding may help a child avoid cancer and obesity later in life. An infant who is breastfed is also less likely to develop diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease when compared to his formula-fed peers. There is even evidence that breastfeeding has a positive effect on a child’s intelligence.
Bonding is also among the advantages of breastfeeding. With breastfeeding, a mother and child have skin-to-skin contact, which encourages bonding. A woman must also stop what she is doing and hold her child during breastfeeding, which provides special time for closeness, even if the mother has a hectic schedule.
There is a host of advantages of breastfeeding for the mother. For starters, breastfeeding is free and does not require late-night trips to the kitchen. Studies have also produced evidence that breastfeeding helps reduce a woman’s stress level and may make her less likely to become depressed. As far as a woman’s physical health is concerned, breastfeeding may help her lose weight and may even translate into the reduced risk of developing cancer of the breast or ovary.