You have been hearing about the benefits of breast milk as long as you’ve been living! From the pre-mature new born to the full-term infant, breast milk is best. It is simply nature’s gold! For the first six months of an infant’s life, breast milk fulfills the baby’s essential vitamins and nutrients. Plus, it is packed with disease fighting antibodies to protect the baby from various illnesses.
Breastfeeding is a personal decision but keep in mind, it is highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The AAP claims breastfed babies may be less likely to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Let’s review some of the most important benefits of exclusive breastfeeding (no solid foods, baby formula or water).
Several global studies have consistently shown that breastfed babies get fewer occurrences of stomach viruses, fewer ear infections and have a reduced risk of developing respiratory illnesses. If such conditions do affect a breastfed baby, the impact is less severe.
According to a large study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Children who are breastfed have a 20% lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who are not breastfed. The study showed longer breastfeeding is associated with greater protection from illnesses.
There is data in support of breast milk strengthening the baby’s immune system, which may protect them from acquiring certain childhood cancers along with diabetes and high cholesterol later in life.
A lesser known advantage of breast milk is protection against allergic reactions. A baby’s developing gut is better protected from the immune factors found in breast milk. The baby’s intestinal tract is shielded, reducing the chances of inflammation. This is another advantage because inflammation inside the body can create a leaky gut causing allergic reactions among other health issues. Since babies are born without any bacteria in their gut, a healthy gut microbial is paramount for a strong immune system. Breast milk supports the growth of healthy gut bacteria. This is especially important in a day where probiotics have become such an important part of many people’s daily dietary regimen. Why not start promoting the growth of mother natures bacteria from the start?
In addition, breast milk offers tremendous health benefits for the mother. More than nutritional benefits, breastfeeding builds a strong bond between mother and child; the eye contact and physical closeness. Nursing mothers tend to feel more calm and relaxed because nursing triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone that supports relaxation. These women may also experience less postpartum bleeding since oxytocin also helps the uterus contract after birth. Furthermore, studies have shown nursing mothers to have greater protection against ovarian cancer and breast cancer. It may also lower your risk for osteoporosis.
Breast milk is also far less hassle because it is not only free, but there is no need to measure formula or warm up a bottle at 2 a.m.
In certain circumstances, breast milk may be harmful for the baby. Do not breastfeed if you:
- are HIV positive
- are undergoing chemotherapy
- have active and untreated TB
- are taking certain prescription medication for arthritis, migraines or Parkinson’s disease
Breastfeeding is not easy for every woman. Please consult your healthcare provider or a certified lactation consultant for assistance.