However you choose to feed, mealtime is essential to the bonding that happens between you and your baby. That’s because it prompts physical closeness between the two of you, as well as quality interaction.

Talking directly with your baby during mealtime is important for another reason, too. Children’s brains best absorb language during the first three years of life. So being intentional with how you interact with your child from day one helps their brain grow.

And if a mother chooses to breastfeed, there are even more benefits for her and her baby. Here are what our doctors consider to be the top 5 reasons to breastfeed:

  1. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. When baby is getting enough breastmilk, it provides almost all the nutrients they need for the first six months of life. And, since it’s all your baby needs, it’s economical.
  2. Breastmilk helps keep your baby from getting sick. It reduces rates of ear infections by 25 percent and diarrhea by 60 percent in a baby’s first year of life. And hospitalizations for pneumonia are cut by 200 percent. This is because your body has built up antibodies against colds, flus and other diseases throughout your life. And when you nurse, you transfer these antibodies to your baby.
  3. It lowers your baby’s health risks for life. There is a lower SIDS risk for babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life and then for the next six months have only breast milk and baby food. These babies also have a reduced risk for dental cavities, obesity, asthma and diabetes over their entire lifetime.
  4. It lowers your health risks. Breastfeeding may lower your risk of breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes later in life.
  5. It helps you recover physically. Pregnancy, labor and delivery all put stress on your body. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin. And that helps shrink your uterus back down to its normal size after your baby comes.

“Spend some time researching and discussing how breastfeeding would work in your life. Your doctor, your partner or support system and other moms are all good places to start,” says family medicine doctor Shannon Neale, MD. “Ultimately, it’s important that each mom makes the right decision for her. We encourage you to do what you feel is best for you and your family.”

If you feel like you’ll need a little help staying on top of breastfeeding, the myHealthyPregnancy app has a baby feeding log that allows you to keep track of when and how much your baby eats throughout the day.

More resources for connecting with your newborn