The Perks and Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

Here are six good reasons to choose boob over bottle if you have the option.

Celebrities such as Ashley Graham and Kate Upton have opened up about breastfeeding, and heck, parents can even do so in the Sistine Chapel if they want. Breastfeeding no longer needs to be shrouded in secrecy (not that it ever needed to be, BTW) — and in fact, its benefits should be celebrated loudly. Feeding your new addition the old-fashioned way has seriously great physical and mental effects — for you and your baby.

That said, it's important to point out that many new parents don't have the ability to exclusively breastfeed — or can't breastfeed at all. Some new parents simply don't make enough milk or their babies aren't able to latch on properly, and other health issues or illnesses prevent it entirely. Plus, sometimes it's just plain painful.

But, if it's feasible, here are six good reasons to opt for the boob over the bottle.

It Can Help Your Body Postpartum


Although it's not to be considered a workout, breastfeeding is demanding, metabolically speaking. "Breastfeeding requires an additional 300 calories above that required at the end of pregnancy," Gina Nelson, M.D., fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and ob-gyn at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, previously told Shape. Be sure to properly hydrate and avoid strenuous exercise, as research shows that strenuous workouts could alter the taste of your milk.

And breastfeeding can also help bring your body back to its pre-pregnancy state more quickly, even without taking into consideration the caloric expenditure, according to the Office on Women's Health. "When you nurse, your body releases certain hormones that shrink your uterus back down to its former pre-pregnant size," says Elisabeth Dale, author of Boobs: a Guide to Your Girls.

It Can Ward Off Disease


The longer a new parent breastfeeds, the more they are protected against certain types of cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The potential reason for this reduced risk is that the hormones needed to lactate can delay the return of your period — therefore lowering your overall contact with estrogen. Breastfeeding can also potentially lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, per the CDC.

It Builds a Mind-Body Connection


The stress of a new baby is enough to drive anyone over the edge. "It has been documented that women who stopped breastfeeding early on or didn't breastfeed altogether were at a higher risk of postpartum depression than breastfeeding moms," says Joy Kosak, co-founder of Simple Wishes, a postpartum intimates and nursing apparel company. And while the science is conflicting on this claim, it does provide hope for people who suffer from this devastating condition.

It's a Natural High


That same hormone that helps shrink your uterus back to size also makes you feel good — really good. "When you nurse your baby, your body releases a big dose of hormones. Oxytocin, or the 'bonding' hormone as it's commonly known, sends a feeling of relaxation and euphoria to your brain," explains Dale.

It's Good for the Baby


Breastfeeding can help keep you healthy, and the same is true for your baby. Breast milk contains all the vitamins and nutrients needed for the first six months of your baby's life. "Not to mention that breast milk is proven to help protect your baby from developing allergies and helps to reduce the risk of infection," says Kosak.

The CDC points out that breastfeeding can reduce the risks of many health problems, including asthma and type 1 diabetes. Because of antibodies in breast milk, breastfed babies build a strong immune response and can protect from illness, which is likely why they have fewer ear infections and stomach bugs on average, per the CDC.

It's Convenient


In the age of multi-tasking parents, solutions have surfaced to make breastfeeding much more convenient. Whether it's going back to work and needing a hands-free pumping solution or alcohol testing strips that allow you to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine at the end of the day without worry, there is an abundance of products and services available to help you breastfeed with ease. (Up next: This Midwife Has Dedicated Her Career to Helping Women In Maternal Care Deserts)

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