Potential benefits of breastfeeding

Title: Potential benefits of breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding offers many potential health and emotional benefits for a mother and her baby.


Breastfeeding offers many potential health and emotional benefits for a mother and her baby. Potential benefits for the baby include:
• Complete nutrition. Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition available to infants. It has the perfect amount of fat, sugar, water, vitamins and protein required for a baby’s growth and development. As a result, breastfed infants tend to be leaner and are less likely to gain unnecessary weight. This may result in being less overweight later in life.
• Better digestion. For most babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula. Its nutrients are easier to absorb and it contains an enzyme that allows babies to process nutrients more effectively. This may result in less gas and discomfort.
• Resistance to infectious disease. Breast milk contains antibodies, agents that protect the body from bacteria and viruses. Recent studies have shown that babies who are breastfed exclusively for six months are less likely to develop infection and disease, including diarrhea, ear infections and respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. As a result, they are sick less often and require fewer physician visits. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, babies in the United States who are not breastfed have a 21 percent higher postneonatal infant mortality rate.
• Enhanced immune system. Babies who are breastfed have better immune system responses to immunizations like polio, tetanus, diphtheria and Haemophilus influenzae. There is also a better immune response to respiratory syncytial virus infection, a common respiratory infection among infants.
• Better brain development. Although the link is not certain, some studies have shown that children who are breastfed have greater brain development than those who are not breastfed. Babies who are breastfed, particularly those who were born prematurely, tend to score higher on IQ tests later in life.

Better development among premature babies. Premature babies fed breast milk tend to be healthier than premature babies who are fed formula. Antibody-containing breast milk provides protection against the infections that premature babies are vulnerable to.• Reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although more research is needed, some studies have shown that babies who are not breastfed have a greater chance of SIDS in the first year of life.
• Reduced risk of disease. Although the link is not certain, babies who are breastfed appear to have lower rates of allergies and certain diseases, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, childhood cancer, high cholesterol and asthma. In addition, milk taken directly from the breast is always sterile. Formula has a risk of being contaminated, and proper use requires sterilizing bottles and nipples. Unlike formula, which must be heated to the proper temperature, breast milk is also always the perfect temperature.

Potential benefits for the mother include:
• Cost efficient. Breast milk is free. Formula can cost hundreds of dollars a month. A family can also save on healthcare costs because breastfed babies are usually sick less often.
• Promotes bonding. Breastfeeding can help a mother bond with her baby, and the close physical contact can help a baby feel secure, warm and comforted.

• Promotes weight loss. Breastfeeding makes it easier to lose the weight gained during pregnancy because producing milk uses up approximately 500 calories a day.
• Faster recovery after delivery. Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps the uterus return to its normal size. It may also decrease any bleeding a woman may experience after birth.
• Lowers the risk of certain cancers. Breastfeeding may lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
• Lowers the risk of certain bone disorders. Breastfeeding may reduce a woman’s risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
• Convenient. A woman can breastfeed practically anywhere at any time. Unlike bottle-feeding with formula, breastfeeding does not require feeding equipment such as bottles, water and formula. In addition, it is much easier to breastfeed a baby at night rather than having to prepare a bottle.
• Delays ovulation. Breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, delays the return of ovulation and menstrual cycles after delivery. This may aid in preventing pregnancy. However, another form of contraception should be used during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding alone will not totally prevent a woman from becoming pregnant.

• Promotes relaxation. Breastfeeding requires a mother to set aside quiet time for herself and her baby. She can also breastfeed in bed at night rather than sitting up in a chair for feeding from a bottle. Promotes self-esteem. Breastfeeding mothers typically have increased self-esteem from the Potential benefits of breastfeeding.




Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

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