Breastfeeding is a common occurrence for new mothers and parents assigned female at birth (AFAB). However, it’s more than just a way that a baby can be fed naturally. The act of breastfeeding comes with a slew of benefits, both physical and mental, for mothers and their children.
Many of these benefits come from the nutrients and antibodies produced in breast milk, which offer the baby significant protections while boosting their mother’s health, too. However, the connections formed through nursing offer significant benefits to the mother and child’s mental health as well.
Physical Benefits for Mothers
When you think about breastfeeding as a mother or AFAB parent, you might be thinking about how to find the most comfortable nursing and maternity bralette to support the breasts through this period, or even feelings of anxiety around the prospect of breastfeeding for the first time, or after a previous experience. However, fears of discomfort or sagging can be offset by the physical benefits of breastfeeding, which include less postpartum bleeding, fewer urinary tract infections (UTIs), lower risk of anemia, and faster postpartum weight loss.
Mental Benefits for Mothers
Breastfeeding is just as important in a mental sense as it is physically. While nursing, you can see reduced stress levels, increased confidence and self-esteem, a generally more positive mood, and a lower risk of postpartum depression, as well as a stronger connection with your baby. Of course, it’s important to seek counseling or other treatment from mental health professionals if you’re suffering from postpartum depression or other severe negative feelings. Time spent in individual or family therapy will support a breastfeeding mother just as much, if not more so, than breastfeeding alone.
Physical Benefits for Children
From infancy to the time after your baby’s first year, breast milk offers significant benefits to your child’s physical health. Most notably, breast milk is considered to be the perfect balance of nutrients for newborns and older babies, ensuring they get the nourishment they need. At the same time, they receive antibodies through the mother’s milk, promoting a stronger immune system, keeping your baby healthy now, and promoting better health throughout their life. These same qualities can lead to lower risks and instances of various illnesses, including:
- gastrointestinal issues
- respiratory illnesses
- ear infections
- bacterial meningitis
- orthodontic problems
- childhood obesity
- infant mortality
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Mental Benefits for Children
Like with their mothers, breastfed children have mental benefits in addition to physical ones. Breastfeeding is associated with less crying for many babies—naturally, this offers a benefit for their parents, too. Breast milk and the act of nursing include soothing properties that can ease a baby’s discontent. And, perhaps most notably, breastfeeding promotes a strong bond between mother and child. This can lead to a stronger connection with their mother which, like the many physical benefits of breast milk, can last a lifetime. Click here for guides to help you increase your milk supply so you can improve your breastfeeding journey. In fact, research suggests that levels of maternal sensitivity correlate with the length of time a mother spends breastfeeding, allowing for a stronger connection even as the child grows.
Breastfeeding brings countless benefits for both mothers and children on both a physical and a mental level. But these benefits aren’t limited to the time spent nursing or even the stage of life in which the baby is breastfed. On the contrary, these physical and mental benefits can last throughout the child’s life, offering lasting health benefits and a strong connection to their mother for a lifetime still to come. So, if you’re able and willing to breastfeed your child, you both can reap these benefits for many more years.