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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Mother breastfeeding baby

The Big Deal About Breastfeeding

Recently, a couple came to see me for their first baby’s 2-week checkup. They were happy and tired. The baby was beautiful and gaining weight well. The mom reported that breastfeeding was going well – her milk was in, nipples did not hurt, and the baby seemed to have got the hang of feeding just fine!

After a few minutes of talking, the dad asked if he could ask me a “dumb question”? He said he was completely supportive of his partner’s breastfeeding and happy the baby was growing well, but he wanted to know: What’s the big deal about breastfeeding anyway?

Well, you know what they say about “dumb questions” right? There aren’t any. Or, as I have told my kids to remember, if you have a question, there’s a good chance that others around you have the same question – so ask it. This dad’s question is a great one and worth spending some time answering.

Breastfeeding is literally a big deal because breast milk is the perfect food for babies. It’s much easier to digest. And breastfeeding has many benefits for both baby and mom.

Breastfed babies:

  • Are less likely to get sick. Breast milk contains antibodies, special substances made by the mother’s immune system.
  • Are less likely to get ear infections, colds, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
  • Have a lower risk of developing diabetes and obesity in later life.
  • Have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding moms:

  • Are less likely to get sick. Breast milk contains antibodies, special substances made by the mother’s immune system.
  • May lose weight more quickly because you use calories while breastfeeding.
  • Have reduced risks of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Have decreased risks of diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Breastfeeding also:

  • Is a wonderful way to bond with your baby! I really enjoyed those many hours of sitting still and caring for my babies. It felt like we were quiet and connected while the rest of the busy world spun around us.
  • Is much cheaper (almost free), unlike formula that can cost $1,000 to $2,000 for a year’s supply.
  • Makes nighttime feedings much easier – just grab the baby and plug them in!
  • Makes leaving the house easier – less gear to take.
  • Helps the environment by cutting down waste from formula packaging and bottle washing.

Convinced? I hope so. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months. I agree! When possible, it’s best to continue breastfeeding, while also giving your baby solid foods, for at least the first year of life. After that, breastfeed for as long as both you and your baby want. The longer you breastfeed, the greater those benefits will be for you and your baby.

Find more resources for parents:
My Doctor Online
Breastfeeding resources

The American Academy of Pediatrics
Breastfeeding resources

This article was originally published on August 2, 2018.

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