It’s National Nutrition Month, and as a nutrition expert, I can’t let the month go by without talking about breastfeeding.
Breastmilk is pretty mind-blowing when you learn about all it can do for a baby and mother’s health, in both the short and long-term. The nutritional benefits of breastmilk are endless, and it would take years to describe them all. Today I’m going to highlight just ten of the ways a baby benefits from breastfeeding.
In the world of parenting, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is a highly emotional topic, and can really polarize groups of parents. So I want to point out that this post is about breastfeeding. Not parenting. Whether or not people breastfeed depends on many factors – some under a mother’s control and some not.
I do not believe breastfeeding determines whether or not someone is a good mother. However, I do believe that more people – male and female – deserve to know the specific, amazing benefits of breastmilk. Which is why I’m sharing this list.
10 Ways Breastfeeding Benefits a Baby
1. Breastmilk has antibodies to every illness a mom has either had herself, or that she has been immunized against. After birth, if an infant gets sick, her mother immediately begins to produce breastmilk containing antibodies to that specific disease, whether or not the mom has had it herself.
2. Breastmilk contains white blood cells. These cells kill bacteria that gets into the milk, and they also kill any dangerous bacteria in a baby’s stomach and intestine. That same breastmilk then promotes an environment in a baby’s digestive tract that encourages healthy bacteria to grow. A natural form of probiotics!
3. When a baby is born too early, breastmilk helps the brain grow normally, and lowers the risk of learning problems. For all babies, breastmilk promotes good vision and nerve growth.
4. Breastmilk contains a whole group of little miracle components, such as “tumor-reducing factor” (which lowers a baby’s chance of getting cancer).
5. Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
6. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing type I diabetes, (the childhood type), and type II, (what used to be known as the adult type).
7. Breastmilk contains hormones that calm babies.
8. Breastmilk takes on the flavors of the foods a mother eats. This helps prepare babies to be enthusiastic about the food its family eats.
9. Breastmilk evolves as a baby grows, so that during the first two years, a mother’s milk provides just what a baby needs at that age.
10. Studies show that breastfeeding may lower the incidence of allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, in children and teens.
Sources: my mom, a licensed lactation consultant; and The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.