On special days throughout the year, we give presents to those people we love and appreciate in our lives. We wonder what gifts to give and base our choices on how appropriate and precious they are for the individuals we care about. Mothers have an obvious choice for their babies. However, it could be said that breastfeeding is a priceless gift for not only baby, but mother and family as well.
A Gift for Baby
Most people agree that the gift of “breast milk is best,” for a baby. On some articles in this blog, we have written in detail about those benefits. Breastmilk is the perfect nutrition for your baby. It provides exactly the right mix of nutrients and protective antibodies your baby needs. There are so many health benefits for a baby who is fed breastmilk, whether the milk is given from breastfeeding or breast pumping. It contains all the proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and enzymes for a baby’s growth and development. A mother creates new antibodies in real time, strengthening the baby’s immune system through her breast milk.
Mothers’ milk has an amazing ability to offer protection from day-to-day exposure to contagious illnesses with immune properties that pass into her milk. Breastfed babies are less likely to contract ear infections and other diseases like pneumonia and meningitis or to become ill with gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea. This protection continues for as long as a baby continues to nurse. As an added side benefit, the BBC cites Brazilian research that even points to a link between breastfeeding and intelligence.
In summary breastfeeding is the perfect gift for a baby in these ways:
- Helps the baby’s immune system mature
- Reduces gastrointestinal illness in infants
- Reduces respiratory illness
- Protects against chronic diseases, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and childhood cancers
- Delays the onset of hereditary allergic disease and lowers the risk of developing allergic disease
- Improves a baby’s neural development
- Lowers the risk of developing teeth misalignment and other dental issues
- Lowers the risk/delays early onset:
- Reduces the risk of ear infections
- Reduces the risk of lymphoma
- Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by
A Gift for Mom
Giving the gift of breastmilk is also a wonderful gift for mom. There are several benefits. First, breastfeeding helps get rid of that extra weight gained during pregnancy. In fact, according to an article in Scientific American, producing milk for a single infant burns about 500 extra calories a day. In addition, the emotional health of the mother is enhanced by the relationship she develops with her baby during breastfeeding. This results in less anxiety and a stronger sense of connection. Breastfeeding also may provide protection against breast cancer. One study showed that the risk of breast cancer decreased as the number of months spent lactating increased. The reason might be related to the ways that women’s estrogen levels are lower during breastfeeding. At the end of the day however, there is no way to measure the positive health impact of the gift of unconditional love given by a child. That is perhaps the greatest gift of all for a mother. The gift of breastfeeding offers these benefits for moms:
- Lowered risk of:
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Developing type 2 diabetes
- Developing postpartum anxiety and depression
- Delayed return of menstrual cycle
- Breastfeeding should not be used as a birth control method, but breastfeeding does impact on fertility and is nature’s way of helping ensure a safe spacing between children
- Faster return to pre-pregnancy weight since feeding your baby breastmilk can help mom burn through an additional 500 calories per day.
A Gift for Families
Families also benefit from the gift of breastmilk. Fathers for a start have lots of questions during the first few months of his child’s life. However, at the heart of being a new dad is the desire for his partner to be happy and to bond with his newborn baby. It is important for dads to understand how breastfeeding actually works in order to really appreciate how incredible the process is and what a gift it is for his baby and partner. The truth is that there are many health and psychological benefits for baby, mom – and families too! The gifts for families include both personal and financial aspects.
- Strong bonding between mother and infant, contributing to an overall healthier family
- Lower household expenditures by avoiding the high cost of formula
- Formula costs can run up to US$50/week, or US$2,600/year
- Lower healthcare costs for you and society overall than for formula-fed infants
A mother can enjoy giving the gift of breastmilk to her little one, knowing that the benefits extend beyond the baby. Nurturing a new child with love and giving them the best possible start in life, is a timeless gift. Whether you are pumping or breastfeeding – breastmilk is one of the best gifts a mother can give her baby while adding value to her partner – and herself!