Exclusive Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby and Mom

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Breastfeeding is often described as one of the most natural and rewarding experiences a mother can have, but did you know the exclusive breastfeeding benefits extend far beyond basic nutrition?

From boosting your baby’s immunity to fostering a profound bond between mother and child, exclusive breastfeeding offers a wealth of advantages that can shape a healthier, brighter future for both you and your little one.

Dive into this article to discover the incredible benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and how it can transform the early months of your baby’s life into a foundation for lifelong well-being.

In a Hurry? Here are the top key exclusive breastfeeding benefits:

1. Optimal Nutrition and Immunity: Breast milk provides the perfect mix of nutrients and antibodies to support your baby’s growth and baby’s immune system, protecting against infections and illnesses.
2. Health Benefits for Moms: Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, aids post-partum recovery, and helps in losing pregnancy weight.
3. Long-Term Benefits for Babies: Breastfed babies tend to have higher intelligence scores, lower risks of obesity and diabetes, and fewer instances of asthma and allergies.
4. Strong Bonding: The act of breastfeeding releases oxytocin, enhancing the emotional bond between mother and baby, and contributing to both physical and emotional health.

Exclusive breastfeeding benefits for babies

mom breastfeeding a baby on a bed

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Paediatrics strongly recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life.

We all want the best for our babies, and according to these top health authorities, breast milk is the ideal choice. It is full of essential nutrients and antibodies that build a strong foundation for our babies’ health.

By choosing exclusive breastfeeding, we’re not just feeding them; we’re giving them the best possible start in life, protecting them from many diseases, and creating a special bond.

Clearly, breastfeeding is more than just a meal; it’s a lifeline.

Here’s a list of exclusive breastfeeding benefits for babies:

1. Breastmilk’s components

A filled baby bottle is placed on a white surface. In the blurred background, a person is holding a breast pump.

Breastmilk contains the ideal nutrition that your baby needs for healthy growth and development. Which is valid for your baby’s first six months of life; after that, it will slowly transition to solids. Through this transition (after six months), your baby will still need breastmilk, or you could transition or introduce formula. It’s up to you. But again, it is highly recommended to continue with breastmilk for at least a year.

Why it’s essential for at least a year? Because the weaning process and introducing solids need time, and you must gradually introduce all the different foods into your baby’s diet. It will enable you to find out whether your baby develops allergies to certain foods.

Another thing you should know about breastmilk is that it’s continually changing and adapting according to your baby’s needs.

The only supplement you need for your baby is Vitamin D3 – the only vitamin your breastmilk may be lacking. Therefore, to compensate, your paediatrician may recommend Vitamin D3 drops.

Promotional image offering a free downloadable "Ultimate Breastfeeding Snack & Food List" from a Free Printables Vault. The image includes a sample of the list with colorful headings and categories.

2. Breastmilk contains antibodies

A woman wearing a white shirt is using a breast pump while sitting next to a baby wrapped in a blue blanket, who is sleeping on a white surface.

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest benefits that breastfeeding has, besides providing proper nutrition, of course.

My baby wasn’t sick at all during the entire breastfeeding period, even though I was ill as well; my baby didn’t get it.

How is this possible? Colostrum is full of vitamins, proteins, antibodies, minerals, immunoglobulin A (IgA), and countless others, that will protect and help your newborn build his immunity.

These antibodies help your baby fight infections such as stomach bugs, diarrhoea, colds, and diseases of the chest and ears.

These proteins and minerals are secreted into the breastmilk and then to your baby’s body through feeding. That’s how his little body will fight against bacteria and viruses.

📌 Related article: Best Breastfeeding Supplies for Nursing Moms

3. Health benefits

A person wearing a blue shirt breastfeeds a baby wrapped in a knitted blanket. The close-up image focuses on the baby's head and the person's hand.

Breastfeeding has an impressive list of health benefits and may reduce disease risks (both long and short term). It applies especially to exclusively breastfed babies.

  • Middle ear infections
  • Less likely to become overweight – in adulthood
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Colds and infections – lower risk of getting severe colds and ear or throat infections
  • Reduces the risk of hospitalization – for possible infections
  • Gut infections
  • Intestinal tissue damage – reduction in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) 
  • Allergic diseases – reduced risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema
  • Celiac disease – babies breastfed at first gluten exposure are 52 percent less likely to develop celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – less likely to develop childhood inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Childhood leukaemia
  • Lower the risk of allergies – If there is a family history of allergies, your baby may also develop any. Breastfeeding is the best way of lowering this risk because you’re already exposing your baby to a large variety of foods.

“Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health.”

by World Health Organization

4. Smarter children

Some studies suggest that between breastfed and formula-fed babies could be brain development differences.

So, breastfeeding may affect your baby’s brain development and reduce the risk of future behaviour and learning problems.

I found a study which states that “breastfed babies are more intelligent.” Not sure whether this true or not, but it’s another cool thing to consider.

📌 Related article: Top online childbirth & breastfeeding classes

Exclusive breastfeeding benefits for moms

A person with long hair is seated in a chair breastfeeding a baby. The person is wearing a white shirt and ripped jeans. The baby is unclothed.

We often hear about how breastfeeding is great for babies, but let’s talk about what it does for moms. Did you know that breastfeeding can lower our chances of getting breast and ovarian cancers? It’s true! Nursing our babies helps protect us from these serious health issues.

But it’s not just about health. When I first started breastfeeding my baby, I felt the hormone oxytocin kick in. It’s known as the love hormone for a reason. Oxytocin helps our uterus contract and reduces bleeding after childbirth, and it also helps us bond deeply with our babies. Each feeding session became a special moment of closeness and love, strengthening the connection with my child.

Here’s a list of exclusive breastfeeding benefits for moms:

1. It’s FREE & AVAILABLE at all times

mom breastfeeding a baby at a coffee shop

It’s the most important to know, especially if you are raising your child on a budget.

Formula can get very expensive over time, so if your body produces breastmilk, why not take advantage of it?

When it comes to availability, I have to say that’s the easiest and best method to feed your baby. If you miss your baby’s hunger cues and don’t feed him, things can get nasty.

I supplied with formula milk for about a week (I thought I was having supply issues, but he was going through a growth spurt that I wasn’t aware of) and got the sense of bottle feeding with formula milk. It was hard, especially during the night.

It’s super easy when you go out. You don’t have to worry about packing formula, bottles, hot water, and other things required for each preparation.

2. Helps with Post-partum Recovery

Not sure if you know this already, but you won’t get a flat tummy straight after you gave birth.

You will still look pregnant because your womb needs time to get back to normal, and breastfeeding can speed up the entire process.

3. Benefits for your health

A baby with light brown hair is breastfeeding while looking up. The person holding the baby has tattoos on their arm.

Breastfeeding lowers the risk of various health issues such as:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Osteoporosis (bones)
  • Diabetes 
  • Cardiovascular disease (conditions that are affecting the heart or blood vessels).

4. Helps you bond with your baby

Another important thing for you as a new mom is to be able to connect with your newborn.

It’s essential for your baby as well, and breastfeeding is the perfect opportunity to feel and keep a developing baby closer to you, bond, and strengthen your relationship.

📌 Related article: 9 foods to avoid while breastfeeding

5. Keeps you in shape

A woman with wavy hair stands in a field, facing away from the camera, carrying a baby in a green wrap sling. The baby is looking over the woman's shoulder.

I learned this the hard way! Haha…

After I stopped breastfeeding, I gained 2-3kg. I wasn’t expecting that!

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your body loses around 300 calories per day.

Another thing to consider is that we are not the same, and some women lose weight faster than others, but don’t despair!

Your appetite might go up because of all the hormonal changes that take place in your body after birth. That’s why you may think that you’re not losing weight.

However, after three months of lactation, it may help you burn fat.

Please note that diet and exercise are still the most important in determining how much weight you lose, with or without breastfeeding.

“Oxytocin, known as the love hormone, helps us bond deeply with our babies.”

6. Lower risk of post-partum depression

Breastfeeding moms are less likely to develop post-partum depression. It’s because of the high levels of oxytocin in your system. It also encourages caregiving, relaxation, and helps you bond with your baby.

7. Breastfeeding will pause ovulation and menstruation

It’s your natural birth control that your body “creates” to space out two pregnancies.

However, this is not entirely effective. Many moms think that you can’t get pregnant if you don’t have your monthly bleeding.

That’s how many women got pregnant without being aware. Please be careful if you’d like more time between the two pregnancies.

📌 Related article: Breastfeeding after C section | What I’ve learnt as a new mommy

Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months

A mother is lying down and breastfeeding her baby, with a blanket draped over her shoulder and the baby covered with a diaper.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months not only provides the best nutrition for your baby but also strengthens their immune system, supports their growth, and sets the stage for a healthy life. It’s incredible how this natural process can greatly reduce the risk of many health issues, including lower respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, and sudden infant death syndrome.

The World Health Organization and healthcare providers around the globe advocate for exclusive breastfeeding to give babies the best start. Knowing the benefits of breastfeeding, the risks of starting solid foods too early, and the importance of human milk, can empower new parents to embark on this rewarding journey.

Breastfeeding also benefits moms. It lowers the risk of breast cancer, postpartum depression, and ovarian cancer. It helps the uterus return to its normal size and can assist in achieving a healthy post-baby weight. While there may be challenges like sore nipples or concerns about milk supply, support from a lactation consultant, a healthcare provider, and support groups is available to help you succeed.

With baby-friendly hospitals, accessible information on breastfeeding benefits, and better access to breast pumps and other aids, breastfeeding is becoming more achievable than ever. Let’s make an informed choice to give our children the best start in life and promote a healthier future for the next generation.

Six months and beyond: Long-term benefits of breastfeeding