Breast Milk: Supercharged Brain Food + My Breastfeeding Journey

 

A recent study shows babies who are breastfed score higher on cognitive tests and have 20 percent more “white matter” in their brains – that’s the part of the brain that communicates with other parts of the body.

This, among other factoids on the numerous benefits of breast milk, is what inspired me to nurse my third child, Noah. I didn’t nurse my other children, but in my early thirties when I became pregnant with Noah and after lots of research on the benefits of breast milk for baby, I wholeheartedly committed to accepting the challenge. I say “challenge” because ask any mom who has journeyed through the world of breastfeeding, there can wonderful moments, but there can also be rough ones, particularly in the early stages of breastfeeding.

The Early Days

I’m thankful that during those first few weeks, and months, of breastfeeding (and sometimes tears) that I was reminded time and time again that I wasn’t alone. Whether it was a breastfeeding support group, a lactation consultant or another breastfeeding mom who was simply there to lend an ear and some encouraging advice, it proved to be what I needed to help me get through my various nursing milestones.

If you’re a new breastfeeding mom, my advice to you would be to not get discouraged – you can do this, mama! Nursing is a learning process, there are adjustment periods and learning curves. It takes patience, and practice. There will be easier days, and there will be harder days. There may even be days when you want to call the breastfeeding quits all together! Know that it’s OK to not have all the answers, and that’s why it’s so important for you to surround yourself with a good support network. It truly does make a difference!

I think back on those early nursing days with Noah, and through all the ups and downs, I can’t help but to smile. The bond that him and I developed through nursing was incredible. In fact, I’m PROUD to say that I nursed Noah up until his third birthday!! Yes, you read that correctly – three years! I clearly remember thinking in those first few weeks of nursing, that if I could just make it to three months, then I would be satisfied. That milestone soon turned in to six months…then one year. And, well, the rest is history. Now, weaning a baby or should I say a toddler…that’s a whole other story! 😉

Liquid Gold

Have you ever heard breast milk being referenced to as ‘liquid gold’? Before I started nursing, I hadn’t. But boy, did I soon realize that liquid gold it was! Every drop was a precious commodity in our household, just ask my husband. 🙂

Colustrum, otherwise known as liquid gold for its deep yellow color is milk that a woman produces during pregnancy and just after giving birth. It’s high in nutrients and contains antibodies to protect the baby from infections.

According to a new study that was published online in The Journal of Pediatrics, babies who were fed more breast milk within the first 28 days of life had had larger volumes of certain regions of the brain at term equivalent and had better IQs, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function.

But it’s not just the baby who benefits – breastfeeding is known to benefit mom, too!

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease makes mention of two notable findings:

  • Women who breastfeed exhibit a reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk compared to women who did not breastfeed.
  • Longer breastfeeding history is associated with lower Alzheimer’s risk.

The benefits of breastfeeding (for both baby and mom) truly amaze me and I can confidently say that nursing my son was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Noah just celebrated his sixth birthday last month, and I still find myself proudly sharing my breastfeeding journey and story with other moms, and offering tips to new breastfeeding moms whenever I can.

After all, we’re all in this life together.

Stay healthy, my friends!

Erica Cardenas

2012 Mrs. Arizona Pageant

Family Photo: My husband, JR, my oldest son Nick, my daughter Ali and little Noah who clearly was ready to nurse as you can see from his hand placement and not-so-happy demeanor. So there I was post-pageant backstage nursing Noah in my evening gown and heels. I love sharing this story, truly a priceless and funny memory!