There are many benefits of breastfeeding for both infants and mothers. To start, breastfeeding helps protect babies. Breast milk contains important antibodies that help protect your baby from numerous illnesses. In fact, one study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that those who are breastfed have a 20% less chance of dying before the age of one than those who were not breastfed! Breast milk contains an important substance called secretory immunoglobulin A. This substance protects your baby from invading germs, primarily through creating a protective coating on your baby’s throat, nose and intestines.
This substance cannot be replicated in infant formula. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life are those who get the most protection, and this protection seems to extend far later into their lives as well. Other studies have shown that babies who were breastfed have a much lower risk of developing certain cancers, and even type 1 and 2 diabetes. Babies who are not breastfed also show a great risk of developing disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Breastfeeding may also help protect your baby against developing certain allergies later in life as well.
Breastfeeding may also protect your baby from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). In fact, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that babies be breastfed as long as possible in order to reduce their risk from dying from SIDS. Numerous studies in Germany and elsewhere have suggested that breastfeeding may cut your baby’s risk of dying from SIDS in half.
There is also significant evidence that breastfeeding your baby may increase your child’s intelligence as well. A study that followed over 17,000 infants showed that breastfed babies had significantly higher IQ scores than those who were not breastfed. Researchers think this may result primarily from the fact that breast milk contains higher fatty acids, which are important for a newborn’s brain development, but the emotional bonding that occurs during breastfeeding may also be a contributing factor as well.
Breastfeeding may also confer some protection from obesity later in life. Babies who are fed formula are often overfed, setting a pattern that may result in obesity later in life. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life have the lowest risk factor for obesity later in life, according to a survey of articles in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mothers
In short, the benefits of breast milk for your baby cannot be underestimated. But there are benefits of breastfeeding for mothers as well. Numerous studies by the National Institutes of Health have suggested that women who do not breastfeed – or stop breastfeeding very early on – have a much higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Also, there is evidence to support that breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Although scientists are not exactly sure why this is the case, some believe it may be related to fluctuation in estrogen levels and bodily changes that occur when breastfeeding.
Besides the medical benefits for mothers, breastfeeding can provide some important economic benefits as well. Breastfeeding can help reduce financial strain for many families, as infant formula can be quite expensive to purchase.
Breastfeeding can also be much easier on mothers, since you will not be constantly preoccupied with sterilizing bottles and nipples, preparing the formula and warming them – often in the middle of the night. Finally, breastfeeding provides an important connection between mothers and infants. Physical contact between newborns and mothers is very important for your baby’s emotional development, bonding between a mother and infant, and it even boosts a mother’s oxytocin level which provides a calming effect on the mother and helps breast milk production as well.
To ensure that you are able to provide your baby with the most benefits possible from your breast milk, read these tips on how to have the best breastfeeding diet possible.