Breast feeding has been proven to have a huge number of benefits for both mom and baby, and our bodies have developed a number of unique quirks to make sure that we’re able to give our little ones the sustenance they need. While the decision to breastfeed or not is a deeply personal choice that depends on your situation, it’s always fascinating to discover more about what our bodies are capable of. So here are some of our favorite breastfeeding facts to get you thinking while you’re expecting.
1. Breast milk changes to fit your baby’s needs
Breast milk is the ideal nutrition for your baby and contains all of the water, protein, and vitamins she needs for the start of her life. Not only that, but the content of your breast milk changes as your baby’s needs change. At the beginning of every feeding your milk is more watery, and gradually becomes thicker and more fat-filled. The milk also changes as your baby grows, automatically adjusting to exactly what she needs in that moment. In fact the W.H.O. recommends that moms breastfeed exclusively up to 6 months old because additional foods and drinks are unnecessary until then.
2. Breast milk is like a natural immunization for your baby
Colostrum – which is the thick, yellow milk produced in the first few days after delivery – is full of antibodies and protein. It helps build your baby’s immune system (some people even refer to colostrum as “liquid gold”). Babies only need about 2 teaspoons of it to fill their tummies – it’s that packed with nutrients. The milk that comes after colostrum continues to bolster her immunities: breastfed children have a lower risk of asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity.
3. Milk production is based on supply and demand…
Many new moms worry about making enough milk for their little ones – but don’t stress! The more often your baby breastfeeds (demand), the more prolactin (the hormone that tells your body to make more milk) is produced, and the more milk you will produce.
4. ..and size doesn’t matter
The size of your breasts also doesn’t make a difference to your milk production – moms with A cups can feed their babies just as well as those with larger cup sizes.
5. Milk doesn’t just come from the nipple
There are actually many different places on your nipple and areola (the darker circle of skin surrounding the nipple) that milk can flow out of, giving your baby a larger area to suckle. The most productive area for babies is often below the nipple, which is why your baby will often latch there.
6. Breastfeeding helps your body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth more quickly
When you breast feed, your body releases oxytocin, which helps trigger the “letdown” of breast milk. It also makes your uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy size, thereby lessening the likelihood of post-partum bleeding. Oxytocin also has the added benefit of relaxing you and your baby for some quality bonding time.
7. Your baby smells its way to your breasts
The areolar glands (the bumps on the darker skin around the nipples) secrete oils thought to help lubricate the nipple and make nursing more comfortable. However, a recent study from the National Centre for Scientific Research in Dijon France, suggests that those oils have a scent that babies are instinctually drawn to. This might make it easier to get babies to latch and feed. Moms with more of these glands also started lactating an average of 10 hours earlier than mothers with fewer glands.
8. Breastfeeding might make weaning easier
Your breast milk is affected by the foods you eat, having different flavors depending on what you’ve been munching on. This exposes the baby to more tastes and could make introducing solid foods easier when the time comes.
9. You can breastfeed as birth control
Pregnancy and breastfeeding lowers the amount of estrogen in your body, which stops you from ovulating and menstruating. If you breastfeed exclusively this can serve as a type of natural birth control. However, according to research this is still only about 98% effective and only for the first 6 months of breastfeeding. So, like with most forms of birth control (except abstinence), there is still a risk of pregnancy. Just remember that low estrogen can also cause vaginal dryness, so it’s completely normal to need a feminine moisturizer to supplement your natural moisture.
Our bodies are capable of some pretty amazing things – and this is only a small percentage of incredible facts about breastfeeding! However, whether you decide to breastfeed or not, feeding your baby is a moment of intense bonding and closeness. Take each feeding as an opportunity to connect with your baby and take a break from the rest of the world – just settle in and relax.
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.