Breast milk is the best food for your baby, and the many advantages of breastfeeding mean your baby benefits from your milk in lots of other important ways too.
The health benefits of breastfeeding
As well as nourishing him, breast milk protects your baby. Breast milk is full of live ingredients, including stem cells, white blood cells and beneficial bacteria, as well as other bioactive components, such as antibodies, enzymes and hormones, which all help fight infection, prevent disease, and contribute to normal healthy development.
Babies who are breastfed exclusively for their first six months are less likely to suffer from diarrhoea and sickness, gastroenteritis, colds and flu, ear and chest infections and thrush. And compared to formula-fed infants, exclusively breastfed babies are half as likely to be victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death).
Breastfed babies have:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less diarrhea, constipation, gastroenteritis, gastroesophageal reflux, and preterm necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
- Fewer colds and respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and whooping cough
- Fewer ear infections, especially those that damage hearing
- Fewer case of bacterial meningitis
- Better vision and less retinopathy of prematurity
- Lower rates of infant mortality
- Lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Less illness overall and less hospitalization
- Parents have up to six times less absenteeism from work
Breast milk provides abundant and easily absorbed nutritional components, antioxidants, enzymes, immune properties, and live antibodies from mother. Mother’s more mature immune system makes antibodies to the germs to which she and her baby have been exposed. These antibodies enter her milk to help protect her baby from illness. Immunoglobulin A coats the lining of the baby’s immature intestines helping germs and allergens from leaking through. Breast milk also contains substances that naturally soothe infants.
Breastfed babies may become healthier children with:
- Fewer instances of allergies, eczema, and asthma
- Fewer childhood cancers, including leukemia and lymphomas
- Lower risk of type I and II diabetes
- Fewer instances of Crohn’s disease and colitis
- Lower rates of respiratory illness
- Fewer speech and orthodontic problems
- Fewer cavities
- Less likelihood of becoming obese later in childhood
- Improved brain maturation
- Greater immunity to infection
Teens and adults will find benefits for life:
- Less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Less likely to develop heart disease in adulthood
- Lower risk of multiple sclerosis
- Lower rates of pre- and postmenopausal breast cancers
Breastfeeding is healthier for mom physically:
- Promotes faster weight loss after birth, burning about 500 extra calories a day to build and maintain a milk supply.
- Stimulates the uterus to contract and return to normal size.
- Less postpartum bleeding
- Fewer urinary tract infections
- Less chance of anemia
- Less risk of postpartum depression and more positive mood