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You've likely heard that breastfeeding can confer some pretty impressive benefits to your baby—reduced ear infections and asthma, maybe even a bump in IQ among them. Turns out there are even more perks for your little one, not to mention for you, society and even Mother Earth.
“The incidence of pneumonia, colds and viruses is reduced among breastfed babies,” says infant- nutrition expert Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and the author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession (Elsevier-Mosby). Gastrointestinal infections like diarrhea—which can be devastating, especially in developing countries—are also less common.
Breastfeed your baby and you reduce his risk of developing chronic conditions, such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the digestive tract).
Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome by about half.
It’s more likely that neither of you will become obese if you breastfeed.
The oxytocin secreted when your baby nurses helps your uterus contract, reducing post-delivery blood loss. Plus, breastfeeding will help your uterus return to its normal size more quickly—at about six weeks postpartum, compared with 10 weeks if you don’t breastfeed.
Breastfeeding can decrease your baby’s risk of some childhood cancers. And you’ll have a lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer, an often deadly disease that’s on the rise. You may also reduce your risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
“There’s nothing more empowering as a new mother than seeing your baby grow and thrive on your breast milk alone,” Lawrence says.