Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has the right amount of nutrients, easily digested and readily available. However, the rate of breastfeeding is as low as 30% in some groups of women while some women are unable to breastfeed, others simply choose not to. Studies show breastfeeding has major health benefits, for both the mother and her baby.
Below are five benefits of breastfeeding based on science.
1. Breast Milk is a good source of Nutrition for Babies. In the past and till date, health organizations and authorities recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months. Everything a baby needs in the first six months of existence is contained in the breast milk.
During the first days after birth, the breasts produce thick and yellowish fluid called colostrums. It’s high in protein, low in sugar and loaded with beneficial compounds.
2. Breast Milk Contains immunoglobulin
Immunoglobulin is loaded in Breast milk which helps your baby fight off bacteria and virus. This particularly applies to colostrum, the first milk. Colostrum provides high amounts of immunoglobulin, as well as several other antibodies.
When the mother is exposed to viruses or bacteria, she starts producing antibodies. These antibodies are then secreted into the breast milk and passed to the baby during feeding. Nonetheless, if you are ill, you should always practice strict hygiene. Wash your hands often and try to avoid infecting your baby.
3. Breastfeeding May Reduce Disease Risk
Breastfeeding has an impressive list of health benefits. This is particularly true of exclusive breastfeeding, meaning that the infant receives only breast milk. Respiratory tract infections, Colds and infections, Gut infections, Intestinal tissue damage Sudden infant death syndrome, Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Diabetes and childhood Leukemia risk are all reduced.
4. Breastfeeding Prevents unhealthy Weight and Childhood Obesity
Studies show that obesity rates are 15–30% lower in breastfed babies, compared to formula-fed babies. The duration is also important, as each month of breastfeeding reduces your child’s risk of future obesity by 4%. This may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage. Babies fed on breast milk also have more leptin in their systems than formula-fed babies. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage.
Some studies suggest there may be a difference in brain development between breastfed and formula-fed babies. This difference may be due to the physical intimacy, touch and eye contact associated with breastfeeding. Studies indicate that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop problems with behavior and learning as they grow older. However, the most pronounced effects are seen in preterm babies, who have a higher risk of developmental issues.
In conclusion, if you are unable to breastfeed, then feeding your baby with formula is still completely fine. It will provide your baby with all the nutrients he or she needs.
However, breast milk also contains antibodies and other elements that protect your baby from illness and chronic disease. Mothers who breastfeed experience their own benefits, such as convenience and reduced stress.
As an added bonus, breastfeeding gives you a valid reason to sit down, put your feet up and relax while you bond with your precious newborn.