It’s no surprise — we think breast milk and breastfeeding are amazing. Since you’re here, we bet you agree, too. But in case you need any more evidence, check out some of the cool things that breastfeeding does for you and your baby.
Breast milk is an immune-system superstar
We talk a lot about the immune system benefits of breastfeeding. But it’s hard to overstate how much benefit it gives your baby. Breast milk is packed with white blood cells that protect your baby from illness and disease, containing one to five million white blood cells per milliliter — way more than your blood! And colostrum, the first milk your body produces, is full of antibodies that help jump-start your baby’s immune system.
Breast milk is also responsive, meaning that it changes to meet the needs of your little one. As both you and they encounter germs, bacteria, and illnesses, your milk will adapt to protect your child.
Breastfeeding helps postpartum recovery
Birth can be pretty tough on our bodies. But breastfeeding — more specifically, the hormones that support breastfeeding — help make recovery more manageable.
To start, breastfeeding can help with pain management. This is especially beneficial to moms who have their babies via C-section. Breastfeeding also helps your uterus contract back to its regular size, reduces the risk for postpartum depression and anxiety.
Breastfeeding helps you stay healthy
Breastfeeding also helps mamas even after birth is a distant memory. Breastfeeding — especially extended breastfeeding — is linked to lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer, up to 20-30% reduced risk hypertension and heart disease, decreased risks for Type 2 diabetes, 53% less likely to have multiple sclerosis, and a generally longer lifespan.
Breast milk is the most complex milk in the animal kingdom
Breast milk for babies is part of being a mammal, but humans may have the most complex breast milk out of all mammals. Although conclusive studies haven’t been done on ALL types of milk, studies show that human breast milk has more than 200 different sugar molecules. That's way more than what is found in mouse or cow milk.
Breast milk supply isn’t based on breast size
Cup size has little to do with the amount of breast milk you produce. Why? Cup size is about fatty tissue. Breast milk is about glandular tissue. When it comes to breast milk production, glandular tissue acts as your storage capacity. The more glandular tissue you have, the more milk you can store. Beyond that, breastfeeding is a matter of supply and demand. Even if you have a smaller storage capacity, you can still successfully breastfeed your baby.
Your baby can smell your breast milk
There’s nothing like that magical smell of a newborn baby. Unless you’re a newborn baby, and then there’s nothing like the smell of breast milk. Babies have a strong, strong, strong sense of smell and they use it to bond with their parents. Yes, they recognize the non-nursing parent, but they’re instinctively drawn to the scent of their mother’s milk. (In fact, they can distinguish the smell of their mother’s milk from other breast milk after three days!)
Breast milk changes flavors
Milky, sweet, creamy, and with a hint of...peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Although the effects may be subtle, your baby can taste what you’ve been noshing on. This can help them build their palate for foods as they start on solids later in infancy. Not surprisingly, breastfed babies tend to be more adventurous eaters!
Breastfeeding moms sleep more
No one has a baby with the expectation that it will improve their sleep. But if you’re a breastfeeding mom, your sleepless nights may be fewer. In a survey of over 6,000 mothers, breastfeeding moms reported significantly more sleep than all other moms. They also reported higher energy levels throughout the day and better physical health.
Why? Scientists believe it’s related to the release of oxytocin that occurs during breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can help babies sleep better, too
Newborn babies can’t tell the difference between night and day. It takes several months to develop their circadian rhythm. And other bummer? They don’t make much melatonin early in their lives. This can lead to cranky babies and sleep-deprived parents. However, your nighttime breast milk is rich in melatonin and serotonin, which can help them fall asleep better and stay asleep longer.
You have the right to breastfeed
Breastfeeding in public is protected by federal and state laws in the United States. End stop. You have the right to breastfeed. Your workplace also is required by federal law to provide you sufficient time and a private, functional space — not a bathroom! — to pump for your baby when you return to work.