As we approach the holiday season and give gifts to our children wrapped in pretty paper and colorful bows, we need to remember one very important present only a mother can give her child: breastmilk! This month I want to focus on a few of the “gifts” or benefits of this unique nourishment made especially by you for your baby.

Your new baby will start getting the gifts of breastmilk as soon as he is put to the breast. The first milk he will get is called colostrum. This is the type of milk produced by the mother during the first few days of the baby’s life. It is thicker and yellow in color. Colostrum contains high concentrations of nutrients and immunities that help protect your baby from illness by helping to boost his immune system. If you happen to have a preemie, this milk becomes specially formulated for what that baby needs.

But, the health benefits don’t stop there. Early in your child’s life breastmilk helps prevent or decrease incidences of ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, allergies, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), childhood cancers such as lymphoma, and juvenile diabetes just to name a few. When your child becomes an adult, research shows he will have less chance of being obese, having high cholesterol, and developing heart disease. Let’s not forget the health benefits for the mother. Breastfeeding will decrease her chances of getting pre-menopausal breast and ovarian cancer, help her burn extra calories to help her get back to her pre-pregnancy size, and can help reduce her risk of getting osteoporosis later in life.

Amazingly there is more to breastmilk than just health benefits. I should mention it is easier on the wallet because it is free, traveling is easy because you don’t have to haul around bottles, sterile water, and cans of formula, and there is no trash/waste when you breastfeed. That’s right: breastmilk is all natural and completely environmentally friendly.

Now, since it is cold and flu season take advantage of your breastmilk. When your baby has a stuffy nose, replace the saline nasal drops with a few drops of your breastmilk. The antibodies in the breastmilk give an added healing effect for your child that the saline drops don’t have. A big winter time problem in our house is eczema. Again, take a few drops of breastmilk several times a day and rub onto the eczema. Wow, the healing powers of a mother’s milk are amazing!

I could go on and on about the “gifts” you and your child will get from breastmilk. There are more than I can name. I encourage you to do some research and find out more on your own. There is one last thought I want to leave you with on the benefits of breastmilk. When your holiday season starts to get busy with family visiting, presents to be wrapped, and food to be cooked, take advantage of being a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding gives you that one-on-one time with your child and helps you reconnect after a crazy day. We all know time spent with your baby is time you won’t get back. Happy holidays. •

Carri Davis is a Lactation Consultant in private practice and owns Beautifully Breastfeeding, LLC. She does pre-natal breastfeeding classes, home visits, and after-birth follow up. Carri has been involved in breastfeeding education for 7 years. You can contact her at cdavis@beautifullybreastfeeding.com or 302-745-4225.

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