What Are the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding Versus Formula Feeding for Moms and Babies?

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In the United States, 77 percent of new moms breastfeed their babies. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) wants to increase this number to 81.9 percent by 2020. Why? Research has shown that breastfeeding improves the health of both the baby and the mom in a number of ways. We spoke to Kathy Thomas, BA, BSN, RNC-OB, IBCLC, and Lactation Coordinator for Indiana University Health North Hospital about the health benefits of breastfeeding for moms and babies.

Health Benefits For Moms:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases cholesterol levels
  • Lowers rates of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Reduces risk of diabetes

Health Benefits For Babies:

  • Reduces rates of type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers incidence of obesity
  • Decreases rates of leukemia and lymphoma
  • Reduces likelihood of respiratory disease

Many of these health benefits come from substances found in breast milk that help to guard a baby’s body from invading germs. In addition to these health benefits, breastfeeding also helps transfer important antibodies from moms to babies. If you get a cold or flu, you can still breastfeed your child. Your breast milk will not transfer your flu and cold germs. Instead, the antibodies that your body has produced will be transferred to your baby, helping him or her fight off future disease.

Breastfeeding has an economic benefit as well- reduced incidence of various diseases will lower overall healthcare costs for you and your child as you will spend less time at the doctor’s office and less money on medicine and treatment. You also won’t need to spend money on formula that can be expensive.

If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, remember to talk to your primary care doctor but also reach out to support groups, educational websites (like kellymom.com) and lactation counselors. If you would like to talk to a lactation consultant, your doctor should be able to connect you to a professional within your hospital.

IU Health employs a team of expert Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants who can answer any questions you have about breastfeeding and help you throughout the process of breastfeeding your baby.

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