Many women feel that their chest contributes enormously to the way they feel, their femininity, the way others – and by that I mean the opposite sex – feel about and perceive them. But breasts are more than just attractive assets. They serve a purpose.
During puberty glandular tissue begins to develop due to the release of estrogen. The mammary glands are also located in the breasts and these are responsible for milk production, which actually starts during your fifth month of pregnancy. At birth, prolactin hormone levels are raised, progesterone and estrogen levels drop, and this is what triggers cells to produce milk. This breast milk isn’t like the milk you find in your fridge, oh no. It’s a power drink for your baby – it’s all he/she will need and rely on for the first six months of his/her life. After the six month period you’ll be able to start introducing foods and other substances into your baby’s diet, but your breast milk will still be a major factor in ensuring he/she develops and grows up to be healthy. Therefore it’s unsurprising that breast milk and breastfeeding has a ton of benefits, actually to you, the mom, and to your baby.
Breasts are pretty amazing and the biology of breasts and the physiological mechanisms involved in breastfeeding is fascinating stuff. We’ve all heard that ‘breast is best’ and now I’m going to show you why; here are 15 interesting, strange but completely true facts about breastfeeding:
15 It Gives Baby's Immune A Massive Boost
When you’re sick, your body releases antibodies to fight off the infection. But newborn babies don’t have many of these vital antibodies, hence their immune systems are weaker – need building up – and they’re more prone to getting sick. Your breast milk is therefore vital in helping your baby build up immunity.
Your baby will be born with some antibodies. Whilst in the womb, your body’s already started preparing your baby for childbirth and its first moments on the outside. Among other things, it does this by passing antibodies through the placenta, something known as passive immunity. This immunity though doesn’t last and will begin to fade after a few weeks. That’s why breast milk is so specially important. It tops up those antibodies meaning that your baby will continue to be protected.
The colostrum though – thick yellowish milk – is liquid gold for your baby; you’ve got to ensure your little one gets some of that. It’s secreted for a brief time during the first days after childbirth and is loaded with antibodies to give your baby’s immune system a massive boost.
14 Can Reduce Mom's Risk Of Cancer
Yes, you read this correctly. By you breastfeeding your baby, you can slash your risk of developing breast cancer by about 5%.
In the past there have been a number of studies looking into the effects of breastfeeding on cancer; there has been evidence to suggest it reduces risks of developing invasive breast cancer, but as of yet there hasn’t been any definitive results. But research conducted by experts at the Washington University School of Medicine and Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, discovered that breastfeeding can protect moms and reduce their chances of developing different types of breast cancers, including the most aggressive breast cancers.
It’s recommended that moms breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of their lives. But this study suggests, that in terms of cutting breast cancer risks for the mom, the longer breastfeeding continues the better.
It’s unclear why breastfeeding can cut your risk of developing breast cancers and further research is currently ongoing to discover why this is the case.
13 Helps Baby's Health When He/She Gets Older
Breastfeeding your baby not only loads them with antibodies, necessary to help protect them and stave off all kinds of infections, it’s also been accepted that breastfed babies have a decreased risk of developing a number of other disease when they grow up. It’s those magical properties in breast milk that give your babies temporary immunity as he/she makes a start in life, but some of these properties mean that down the line, when your baby turns into a child and your child grows into an adult, that these properties may still be working their magic.
It’s truly remarkable to think that breastfeeding your child when he/she’s born, means your baby’s less likely to develop any number of diseases and illnesses, including: diabetes, asthma, eczema, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, leukemia, obesity and many others. So, in a way, breastfeeding can help your child for life, not just in those early months.
12 Gets Mom's Body Back To Normal
After pregnancy, one of the things that women desire the most is for their bodies to get back to their pre-pregnancy state. Depending on the childbirth experience – whether it was particularly traumatic, involved surgery etc. – this could take some time. But even not taking this into account, a woman’s body will take time to adjust after that baby’s popped out. Larger breasts, swollen feet, skin conditions, wider hips, back pain, carrying excess baby weight; if your body could rectify itself and all of this could get back to normal, that’d be marvellous. Unfortunately, breast milk can’t get your body back to its pre-pregnancy state in an instant, but it can certainly help speed the process up, especially in relation to the uterus.
Breastfeeding can help the uterus reduce in size and can help reduce any postpartum leakage or blood loss. It’s unclear as to why this is the case, but scientists have discovered that there certainly is a correlation.
11 Saves Plenty Of Dough
There always a battle going on between moms who believe breast is bet and those who feed their babies with formulas; bottle vs breast – there are benefits to both, but of course, due to the nature of this article, it’s all about breastfeeding.
Hopefully by reading through this article you’ll understand that there are a ton of health benefits associated with breastfeeding, both for you, the mom, and your little one. But there’s another benefit – breastfeeding can save you a ton of cash! …Something I’m sure everyone’s interested in, especially during the expensive period of caring for your newborn.
By breastfeeding and not splashing the cash on different types of formulas, you could potentially be saving yourself thousands of dollars a year! Formulas can be expensive with different companies adding this and that in their products to make them more appealing and seem as though they have all these extra vitamins and minerals and added health benefits. But breastfeeding’s free and there’s a never-ending list of benefits associated with breast milk; If you ask me it’s a no-brainer.
10 Shed The Baby Weight Fast
Again, it’s a case of getting your body back to its pre-pregnancy state; for a lot of women this means shedding the pounds and losing all that baby fat. Celebs make it look like a breeze, but for the majority of women, it’s going to take time. Breastfeeding can help you lose weight and reach your desired weight faster. Don’t think it’s because your body’s getting rid of all that milk – that doesn’t come into it. It’s the amount of energy your body expends in order to produce the breast milk in the first place. Just for your body to produce the normal amount of breast milk, your body burns approximately 1000 calories a day. That’s a lot of calories. But one mistake women make during this time, is starving themselves – well, eating less than they usually would in order to lose that weight. You actually need to be consuming more calories than normal whilst breastfeeding, otherwise your body will go into starvation mode and it’ll be even tougher to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
9 Babies Will Only Drink Their Fill
One concern, or at least something that plays on the minds of some mothers, is how much their baby will drink. “Will my baby just keep on drinking, when will my baby stop drinking, will I have enough breast milk to satisfy my baby’s appetite?” These are all things that cross the mind now and again. But fear not, you won’t run out of milk reserves and your baby won’t go hungry. Your baby will drink until he/she has had its fill, then stop. Your baby won’t just drink and drink until your milk reserves have been depleted; he/she will drink until full, removing just over half of the milk available, so you’ll have plenty left over if your baby wants to feed again, and you’ll be producing more milk in the meantime.
Another interesting fact that ties in to this entry is that on average, baby boys consume more breast milk when they feed than baby girls. But whether you have a boy or girl, you’ll always have plenty of breast milk for feeding time.
8 Most Moms Produce The Majority Of Their Milk In The Right Breast
Milk production doesn’t take place evenly in both breasts. If you’ve pumped before, you probably know that it’s hard to get the same amount of milk from each breast. Some women experience milk reserves being a whole lot lower in one breast than in the other, but an unequal milk supply is pretty common. The majority of women, 75% of women in fact, find that they can get more milk from their right breast than their left. This is primarily due to which side your baby favours. Most babies prefer a certain breast, they get used to that breast and so continue feeding from that breast. Most mothers also prefer holding their baby a certain way, a way that feels comfortable. Since the majority of people on this planet are right-handed, most moms are more comfortable holding their baby with their strongest hand on their right side to feed on the right breast. This breast therefore produces more breast milk.
7 Facilitates Skin-to-Skin Which Let's Face It...Is Magic
Pretty much all the experts agree that skin-to-skin contact during those early stages in life is so important for the development of your baby and the way you develop a bond with your baby. Breastfeeding is as intimate as it gets; there’s no better way to form a bond during those initial stages. Holding your baby while he/she latches on and gets nourished by your breast milk, you gently supporting your baby in your arms as he/she feeds and looks lovingly into your eyes – it’s an indescribable feeling. It’ll ensure your baby gets used to you and knows who you are. It’ll also mean your baby’s close to you; during those first few months, a baby can’t see beyond around eight inches from its face, so breastfeeding will not only nourish your baby, it’ll ensure you become a familiar and loving figure. That’s why skin-to-skin contact by way of breastfeeding is so vitally important.
6 Breasts Become All Shapes And Sizes
Just generally, very few women have symmetrical breasts. Most experience one breast to be slightly larger than the other, and have a slightly differing shape it. But during breastfeeding this can become more obvious. It’s not a problem health wise, but it makes many women feeling really self-conscious which only serves to add to everything else that’s going on at the time; excess weight, possible skin problems, wide hips, swelling, etc.
There are different reasons as to why breasts may become lopsided. One is that it’s just the way it is – it just happens, as it sometimes does when women aren’t pregnant. But the primary reason is that the baby favours one side. Pumping that one breast in addition to nursing could influence the shape of that breast.
After childbirth, rather than being lopsided, your breasts may just blow up and become huge! That’s due to hormones and all the milk production, or they may deflate drastically when you breastfeed. Sometime these changes last, but more often than not, they’re just temporary.
5 The Milk's Nutritional Profile Changes Pretty Regularly
Your body and the way it adjusts the smallest of things to make your breast milk perfect for your baby is just amazing. Milk produced by you is just optimal for your baby. I’ve mentioned the antibodies in breastmilk and how vitally important they are. But even other things such as temperature and nutritional content - this is adjusted depending on your baby’s needs.
If your baby’s core body temperature is raised or reduced even by just the smallest amount – which is really dangerous by the way – your breasts can actually detect it; there really is a thing called mother-child intuition after all! Even if there’s a one degree change, your breast will detect it and make adjustments accordingly.
In terms of your breast milk’s nutritional content, it’s constantly changing. The milk produced when you start breastfeeding compared to the milk produced a few months down the line is totally different. But your breast milk could even change on a day-to-day basis; e.g. if the weather’s hot, the milk may contain more water to ensure your baby stays hydrated.
4 It Can Make You Drift Off
Struggling to get in a decent amount of shut eye is common with moms. Hopefully you’ve got a strong support network, a partner to ease the load so you can also get some sleep. But when your baby’s born, your sleeping patterns will change – they’ll adjust to your baby’s; you’ll be awake when your baby is, you’ll be sleeping when your baby’s sleeping.
But breastfeeding can help when it comes to getting in some sleep; it can help you and your baby. If you breastfeed, you’re likely to get about 45 minutes of extra sleep in a day, which can seem like gold dust for a new mom. Lactating produces the hormone oxytocin and it’s this that’s responsible for making you feel sleepy. Breastfeeding can also calm your baby down too, promoting sleep in your little one.
Many women find the process of breastfeeding and watching their babies feed to be really soothing; all of this contributes to you getting in your forty winks.
3 Moms Can Sorta Have Their Wine And Drink It Too
Drinking during pregnancy is a definite no no, but you should also be wary about drinking then breastfeeding.
I’m not saying don’t drink at all; you’ve had to abstain from alcohol for the previous nine months, so it’s understandable that you’re going to want to enjoy your favorite tipple now and again – just don’t go mad, and ensure you don’t have a drink when it’s pumping or breastfeeding time.
It’s strange because once upon a time, in the UK especially, moms were encouraged to drink pints of bitter after giving birth and during the breastfeeding period. The premise here is that it would increase milk production – there’s something to this but we now know a lot more and can safely say that this shouldn’t be done.
Barley in beer stimulates and increases prolactin secretion. This hormone’s responsible for causing lactation, which would be great, but there’s also alcohol in beer which actually has the opposite effect. Therefore, it’s recommended that moms firstly don’t drink too much, but if you have consumed some alcohol, wait a couple of hours before breastfeeding.
2 Breastmilk Tastes Like Lunch
What on earth does breast milk taste like? That’s an interesting one. Many moms and their partners have tried breast milk – not gulped down the stuff, just tried it – so they’ll have an inkling.
The best way to describe what breast milk tastes like is that it’s like normal cow’s milk, just a tad nuttier with a hint of sweetness and vanilla about it – so kind of like almond or soya milk in that respect. But milk also changes in consistency and taste through the months and even during a single nursing session. The taste just described is what milk tastes like through the majority of a nursing session. But towards the end of a session the milk becomes thicker and creamier.
What you eat also affects what your breast milk tastes like. Broccoli for example, can strongly affect the taste of breast milk, so if your baby’s being fussy during nursing time, it could be that he/she is tasting something you’ve eaten – something that doesn’t tickle his/her fancy.
1 Breastmilk Has Magically Healing Powers
The antibodies in breast milk do far more than just protect your baby’s body from certain infections. It can boost your baby’s immune system and protect him/her from all kinds of stuff, at the time and later in life. But it doesn’t just help stave off internal infections and it doesn’t just help your baby. Breast milk can be used to treat and help a range of other issues. For example, if your baby has a diaper rash, soothe the rash with a few drops of breast milk and the magical properties in the milk could help to soothe the rash right up. It works for acne too; gently rub a small amount of milk over the affected area and it’s been known to help clear up those spots.
It can also help other skin issues such as psoriasis. Kim Kardashian made breast milk as a treatment for psoriasis known to the world – well, anyone who watches her reality TV show – by stealing some of her sister breast milk and applying it to the affected area. Apparently, it actually worked too! Breast milk’s just amazing all round, for your baby, for you, for infections and conditions inside and outside the body – it’s your very own magical liquid!
Sources: AlcoholJournal, NCBI