Breast milk boosts a baby’s immune system—helping baby to have more resistance and fight viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, including:
- Respiratory tract infections
- Ear infections
- Bacterial meningitis
- Urinary tract infections
- Infant diarrhoea
- Common cold and flu
The benefits are not only short term, breastfeeding can actually reduce baby’s risk of disease later in life, including:
- Type I and II diabetes
- Hodgkin’s disease (lymphoma)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Breastfeeding reduces mom’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The longer she breastfeeds, the higher the benefit. Breastfeeding a baby girl actually reduces her lifetime risk of breast cancer by 25% as well.
Breastfeeding saves a family approximately±R27000 to R54000 annually (compared to cost of formula).Breastfeeding helps mom heal faster in the postpartum, helping her uterus contract and return to pre-pregnancy size faster and lowering overall postpartum blood loss.
Breastfeeding helps with losing pregnancy weight (energy needs increase by 300-500 kcal per day when breastfeeding).
Linking to the previous point, by producing breast milk 25% of the body’s energy is consumed; the brain only uses 20% by comparison.
On average, babies remove 67% of the milk mom has available—they eat until fullness, not until the breast is emptied. Therefore breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight as adults as they learn to regulate energy intake with appetite from birth.
Mom’s body is constantly making the perfect milk for baby. Milk changes its nutritional profile as baby grows (milk produced for a 3-month-old is different than for a 9-month-old). Milk can even change day to day—for example, water content may increase during times of hot weather or if baby is ill to provide extra hydration.
Breast milk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies. Breastfeeding also calms mom and helps her bond to baby.
Breastfed infants are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Mom’s breasts can detect even the slightest fluctuation in baby’s body temperature and adjust accordingly to heat up or cool down baby as needed. This is one reason skin-to-skin contact in the early days is so crucial.
Breastfeeding reduces baby’s risk of cavities later in life and improves jaw development (may lower the chance that they will need braces as kids).
Breast milk contains enzymes that have already broken down some of the components (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and is thus better tolerated by infants with improved absorption compared to formula.