The Decision to Breastfeed

Published on: August 2nd, 2019

The Decision to Breastfeed

The average person makes 35,000 decisions each day.  For the 35.7 million moms with children under 18 in the U.S., we can assume that that number is even higher.  So when it comes to whether or not to breastfeed, moms need to consider all the benefits breastfeeding holds for both mother and child.


Breastfeeding has Universal Support Among the Experts.


The American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and UNICEF all agree that exclusive breastfeeding for baby’s first six months of life, followed by a combination of breastfeeding and nutritious food for 1-2 years after that is ideal for baby.  In fact, breastfeeding is so beneficial that, according to the World Health Organization, universal breastfeeding could save about 820,000 infant lives each year.  


 Dr. Ruth Petersen, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, said it best when she said:  “Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create a supportive and safe environment for mothers who choose to breastfeed.”


Health Benefits of Breastfeeding Abound


Breast milk is packed with antibodies that help develop the baby’s immune system to help the baby fight against viruses and bacteria. Breastmilk has a significant impact on the long-term health of children. During the first few days after the baby’s arrival, the breasts produce a thick, yellowish fluid called colostrum.  This “first milk” is high in protein and packed with beneficial compounds that help develop your baby’s new digestive tract. As the baby’s stomach matures, the breasts respond by beginning to produce greater amounts of milk. Breast milk is highly adaptive. Breast milk adjusts as the baby grows and develops changing to meet the baby’s needs.  Researchers believe that the baby’s saliva transfers chemicals to a mother’s body through breastfeeding. These chemicals help a mother’s body create breast milk that meets the baby’s unique changing needs.

Longterm Health Benefits for Breastfed Babies

 According to the Cleveland Clinic, breastfed babies are less likely to experience Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),  have fewer instances of allergies, eczema, and asthma, fewer childhood cancers, lower risk of developing type I and II diabetes, fewer cases of Crohn’s and Celiac diseases and colitis, lower rates of respiratory illness, fewer colds and ear infections, fewer orthodontic and speech issues, fewer cavities, reduced likelihood of becoming obese later in childhood or developing high cholesterol in adulthood.  


Benefits for Moms, Too –  The health benefits for nursing moms include: reduced risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers; lessened risk of type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis; lower rates of cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Nursing your baby does take time and energy, so it’s no surprise that breastfeeding burns calories. Although experts are still looking into the effects of breastfeeding on mother’s weight loss, the math is clear.   According to the La Leche League, it takes roughly 20 calories to produce 1 oz. of milk. For the average 150-pound woman, this means that breastfeeding burns approximately 500 calories per day. 


Breastmilk is Green, Saves Green ($$$), and is Good for Our Economy

In our efforts to protect the environment and reduce the amount of waste making its way into landfills across the country, breast milk is package-free and comes warm –  ready to serve. How convenient! No shopping, mixing or measuring formula and no bottles to pull from the refrigerator to warm in the middle of the night. When you breastfeed, you can satisfy your baby’s hunger right away.  Breastfeeding is economical. Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 during the first year alone. A study by the Journal of Pediatrics estimated that if 90% of American families followed the recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of baby’s life, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs.


The Benefits of Blissful Skin-to-Skin Bonding with Babe

Physical contact is necessary for newborns. It helps them feel more secure, warm and comforted. Mothers also benefit from this closeness. The skin-to-skin contact boosts both mother’s and baby’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin, sometimes called the “cuddle hormone,” when released into the bloodstream affects the uterus and lactation, but when it is released into certain parts of the brain, it can impact emotional, cognitive, and social behaviors reducing stress responses, including anxiety.


Decision Making and Support

The decision to breastfeed your child is a personal one.  Once you’ve considered all the benefits and challenges, you can make the most informed decision for you and your child.  Please know that you don’t need to go it alone on your breastfeeding journey. In addition to the support of family and friends, Western Pennsylvania has a plethora of abundant, diverse breastfeeding resources that we will spotlight in our next blog. Look for our Best Breastfeeding Resources next week!


If you are an experienced nursing mom with other great breastfeeding benefits to share, please leave a comment below.  To share your mom experiences as a mentor to new moms, please consider becoming a NurturePA volunteer at