Benefits of breastfeeding

Feeding | | Louise Broadbridge


Breastfeeding is packed with benefits for both you and your baby. If you’re still considering how you want to feed your baby, check out these great reasons to give breastfeeding a try.

1. Nutritious and responsive

Your breast milk is packed with everything your baby needs to thrive, including antibodies to boost their immature immune system, hormones to aid their development and proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals to help them grow.

Incredibly, your breast milk is also responsive and changes to meet the needs of your baby in that moment. For example, on a hot day, it will be more watery to keep your little one hydrated, while at night it includes more of the amino acid tryptophan, which helps your baby produce melatonin, a hormone which helps them feel sleepy.

2. Cheap and convenient

One of the major benefits of breastfeeding is that you can feed your baby wherever and whenever you need to and it won’t cost you a penny. You don’t have to plan ahead for a day out – you can simply feed on demand. Breastfeeding is also a godsend at night as your milk is always ready to go.

The only costs associated with breastfeeding are optional – for example, you might decide you want to invest in a good breast pump so you can express when you want to. It is a good idea to use breast pads and a good lanolin-based nipple cream at the start of your breastfeeding journey but this is a very small investment.

It is also great for the environment as there’s no packaging or production involved – your body will produce the perfect food for your baby all by itself.

3. Reduces the risk of illness and disease

The health benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby are extensive. For your baby, breastfeeding will reduce the risk of a number of common but potentially dangerous illnesses, including ear, respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections, asthma and diarrhoea.

Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and even makes your child less likely to develop cardiovascular disease when they become an adult.

For mums, there are a number of long-term health benefits. Breastfeeding will lower your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and breast, ovarian and womb cancer.

It will also make you less likely to develop osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

4. Beneficial for bonding

When you breastfeed, your body produces lots of the love hormone oxytocin. This will lift your mood and help you feel calmer, happier and less stressed and will also help you bond with your newborn. Feeding your baby encourages you to spend time holding them, with plenty of skin-to-skin contact, which is really important for your little one’s social development, though of course this special time can also be achieved with bottle feeding.

5. You get a break from your period

One benefit you might not have considered before is that breastfeeding will often give you a break from your menstrual cycle. How long it will take to get your first period after giving birth will vary from woman to woman but for many new mums, they will go for several months before their cycle starts again.

This can be a good incentive if you usually suffer from painful periods. Some women find they don’t get a period until they stop breastfeeding, while others will start menstruating again once their baby starts going a bit longer in between feeds.

However, don’t be tempted to rely on breastfeeding as a contraceptive as you may well have started ovulating again without realising and it could result in an unexpected pregnancy.

Although breastfeeding is extremely beneficial for both you and your baby, it isn’t always easy. If you experience any issues feeding your baby, seek support from your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding support worker. There are also breastfeeding helplines you can call for advice.

You can find more advice on breastfeeding here