Nursing your baby has countless nutritional benefits. Plus, it’s a beautiful bonding experience for the both of you.
But breastfeeding can also be exhausting and frustrating ― for instance, your breasts become tender when baby doesn’t latch well, or you might suffer cracked nipples. What about having to decline, ahem, that second glass of wine?
To inspire you to, well, press on in your breastfeeding journey, we’ve rounded up incredible breastfeeding facts you may not know.
1. You’ll burn calories
Can’t wait to hit the gym once baby arrives? No sweat, let breastfeeding do the calorie-burning for you. Women who breastfeed their babies exclusively burn 300 to 500 calories a day through nursing ― you’d have to run 8km daily in order to slash the same number of calories. Looking forward to a flatter tummy? A baby’s suckling also triggers the release of oxytocin, which creates uterine contractions to squeeze the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size.
2. You’ll feel “high”
Does breastfeeding make you feel a little drowsy, or even drunk? You’ll be glad to know that this is completely normal ― brought on by the oxytocin and prolactin that’s released when your baby suckles.
3. You’ll boost your baby’s IQ
Various studies have made a link between breastfeeding and a higher IQ. A 2015 study by Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil found that people who had been breastfed for an extended period went on to score higher marks in IQ tests as adults. The study covered people from various social classes. Dr Horta believes breastmilk may offer an advantage because it is a good source of long-chain saturated fatty acids which are essential for brain development.
4. But it seems to impact boys more than girls
A study by the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort found that boys are more likely to enjoy academic success later in life if they nursed for at least six months. But breastfeeding seemed to have little effect on girls, according to the study.
5. Breastmilk is a natural healer
Suffering cracked nipples because you’re breastfeeding? You don’t need to treat it with a special cream ― soothe and disinfect the sore spot with several drops of your breastmilk, since the antibodies in breastmilk will prevent the growth of germs. You can also try this remedy on any cuts, grazes or rash on yours or your baby’s body.
6. It has a unique smell
From the time your baby is 2 weeks old, he’ll be able to distinguish the smell of your breastmilk to that of another mum’s. A study by the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm found that little lumps around the mother’s nipples release a liquid that smells like amniotic fluid, so that baby is comforted by the familiar scent.
Click on to find out why you should still breastfeed, even when you're sick!
7. It provides customised protection
As you interact with the environment, your body automatically makes antibodies to fight any germs you encounter. These, in turn, are passed to your baby through your breastmilk, thereby offering your baby a personalised line of defence. So, breastfeeding when you are sick actually prevents your baby from catching the illness.
8. The contents change as baby gets older
Right after you deliver, your breastmilk is full of antibodies to protect your newborn’s immune system. As you baby gets older, the level of antibodies decreases, while the amount of fat and other nutrients increases, so that your little one will get what he needs to develop.
9. Non-birth mums can lactate
It’s not impossible for adoptive mums, or even dads to produce breastmilk. She or he can encourage breastmilk production through a process called induced lactation ― by increasing the hormone prolactin, as well as by physically stimulating the breast and nipple.
10. It’s full of sugar
Breastmilk is made up of 200 different sugar molecules, each serving its own purpose. For instance, breastmilk for a newborn contains a sugar that boosts the growth of good gut bacteria.
11. Its composition changes through the day
Breastmilk is dynamic ― its makeup will be adjusted at certain times of day or night in keeping with the child's nutritional needs. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Neuroscience, it was found that breastmilk contains nucleotides, which excite or relax your baby’s central nervous system, and promotes restfulness and sleep. The highest concentration of these nucleotides was found in breastmilk expressed between 8pm and 8am.
Breastfeeding can affect your chances of having twins...read on!
12. It increases your chances of conceiving twins
If you are still breastfeeding a child at the point of conception, you are nine times more likely to conceive twins, according to a study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
13. Mums of boys produce more
Got a hungry little guy? You’ll produce about 30ml extra breastmilk a day, than a mum who is breastfeeding a girl, according to researchers at the School of Women’s and Infant’s Health from the University of Western Australia.
14. You baby can produce milk
If you notice a milky substance coming from your newborn’s nipple, don’t panic ― it’s completely natural. This condition ― infant galactorrhea ― is caused by the presence of the mother’s hormones in her baby. It’s seen in both baby boys and girls.
15. It helps your baby breathe
Nursing your munchkin helps your little one breathe consistently and without problems as being so close to you enables him to hear the rhythm of your heartbeat as well as feel your lungs inflate and deflate.
16. It protects your baby’s teeth
Breastmilk contains bacteria-fighting cells that help prevent tooth decay. Plus, sucking on the breast helps your child’s jaw, palate, teeth and gums develop properly, so your child is less likely to need braces in the future.