Third CNML Principle:
Breast milk is the best nourishment for babies, and the act of breastfeeding provides the best nurturing environment for both mothers and babies.
Science has extensively verified that breast milk is the best food for babies. Here are just a few online resources that list and/or explain the myriad of reasons to breastfeed:
NFP International breastfeeding brochure
This link lists statements from many of the major health organizations and discusses general and specific reasons to breastfeed.
Ask Dr. Sears: Why Breast is Best
What about the act of breastfeeding? Does it matter if a mother pumps her milk and then just lets her baby hold his own bottle when he is able while she does something else? Yes, it does matter! In terms of health, the physical act of breastfeeding contributes to healthy jaw development. Also, the breastfeeding bond helps stimulate the let down of milk and encourages the release of prolactin which relaxes the mother. The skin to skin aspect of breastfeeding also helps stabilize temperature, oxygen, blood sugar and heart rate levels.
In terms of the relationship, mothers holding their babies, making eye contact, affectionately touching their babies, and talking gently to their little ones - how can those aspects of breastfeeding NOT contribute to the mother-baby bond and the emotional health of the relationship! I am sure you have heard of studies done in orphanages in third world countries where all the babies are kept in cribs and hardly talked to. The baby closest to the door - who receives the same amount of formula as the other babies - ends up being the healthiest. Why? Because as the orphanage staff members walks by the door, that baby gets an extra smile or hello or maybe even a little touch on the head. This nurturing aspect of breastfeeding is one reason some moms breastfeed their babies into the toddler and preschool years (although, those children also still receive the immunological benefits of breastfeeding, too).
For more info on the beauty of the breastfeeding relationship, see the book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing. The book does a lovely job of discussing the mother and baby bond. You can also email CNML for a complimentary copy.