Breast is considered best for many reasons: It provides optimal nourishment for your baby and natural goodness along with many benefits. Below are just a few of the benefits that breast milk provides to your baby.
Breastfeeding stimulates the release of a hormone called oxytocin. When your baby first begins suckling, this prompts your milk to start flowing at the same time as contracting your uterus. The contractions help your body recover after birth. The hormone oxytocin also has a positive effect on your emotions; it makes you feel relaxed and content while feeding your baby and makes feeding a comforting experience for both of you.
Breastfeeding is also a natural and easy way to use up some of the fat stores you laid down during pregnancy. Gradual weight loss is always safest and research has shown that mothers who breastfeed are more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner, and are more successful in keeping the weight off.
It is important to be aware that breast feeding may also delay the return of your menstrual cycle, which means your iron stores won’t be so low and you’re less likely to get pregnant while you’re nursing (although it’s still possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding, so talk with your healthcare professional for more information).
Other advantages to breastfeeding include: it’s free and convenient and easy to transport. It’s always the right temperature and you don’t need to sterilize bottles or teats, and it’s a quick and easy way to offer comfort and support to your baby.
The complex composition of your breast milk is constantly changing over time, ensuring your baby is getting optimal nutrition at exactly the right temperature and to meet your baby’s nutritional needs for growth and development. The composition of breast milk not only changes from month to month, but subtle differences also occur throughout the day, and even from the start to the end of a feed.
An infant is born with an underdeveloped immune system. Breast milk also contains many other non-nutritional components which have been recognised for their biological and physiological properties that help to strengthen the developing immune system. These include antibodies, white blood cells and immunoglobulins.
As well as breast milk providing benefits to your baby, the act of breastfeeding also has benefits too. The physical act of holding your baby while they're feeding from your breast is nature's way of encouraging plenty of skin to skin contact and interactions such as talking, eye contact and rocking. This closeness provides comfort and warmth while stimulating your baby's senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste.
When your baby is first born, their eyes are only able to focus on objects around 20-37cm away. Breastfeeding brings you and your baby close so that they can study your features and expressions, learning to recognise you as well as developing essential skills that will gradually improve their sight as well as their attentiveness and concentration. Continued skin-to-skin contact, cuddles and the tactile nature of breastfeeding have been associated with positively influencing the physical, emotional and developmental needs of human babies.