Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants' health, growth, immunity, and development.
The breast feeding is not only beneficial for the baby, but for the nursing mothers as well. Studies indicate that breastfeeding helps improve mothers' health.
Following are some of the benefits of breast feeding based on the several studies and researches done -
Benefits to the baby:
Breastfeeding increases child's immunity to disease and infection:
- Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
- The main immune factor is colostrums, the milk produced by mothers in first few days of giving birth. It guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby's intestines, nose, and throat.
- Diarrheal disease is three to four times more likely to occur in infants fed formula than those fed breast milk. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of ear infections.
Breast feeding decreases incidence of allergies:
- Another apparent benefit from breastfeeding is protection from allergies.
- Eczema, an allergic reaction, is significantly low in breast-fed babies. This effect is particularly evident among children whose parents have allergies.
Breastfeeding boosts child's intelligence:
- Various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development.
- It has partly to do with the fact that breast-fed children develop fewer psychological, behavioural and learning problems as they grow older.
Breastfeeding prevents obesity in later childhood:
- Children who were breast-fed are significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood.
- Formula feeding is linked to about 20 to 30% greater likelihood of child becoming obese in later life.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as a way to help reduce your child's risk of becoming overweight or obese.
- The strongest effect of obesity reduction is seen in children who are exclusively breastfed, and the longer the baby was breastfed the stronger the link.
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):
- Exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month of age has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by 50%
Reduced incidence of Hypertension and heart diseases in later life:
- As per several studies, adults who were breast-fed as infants have lower blood pressure on average than those who were formula-fed.
Thus heart disease is less likely to develop in adults who were breast-fed in infancy.
Benefits to Mother:
Promotes postpartum weight loss
- Breastfeeding mothers return to pre-pregnancy weight much sooner when compared with formula-feeding mothers.
- They burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk.
- In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation.
- Breastfeeding also helps mothers in early involution of uterus to pre-pregnancy state.
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
Benefits child spacing
- When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 % effective -- more effective than a diaphragm or any contraceptives.
- Breastfeeding delays ovulation, the longer a mother breastfeeds the more she is able to practice natural child spacing.
Reduces the risk of breast cancer
- Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent.
Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer
- Because of low estrogens levels during lactation, women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother's risk of developing osteoporosis in later years.
- Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
- Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.
Promotes emotional health
- Breastfeeding mothers show less postpartum anxiety and depression than do formula-feeding mothers.
- The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby.
- A woman's ability to produce all of the nutrients that her child needs can provide her with a sense of confidence.
- Researchers have pointed out that the bond of a nursing mother and child is stronger than any other human contact.
- The relationship between mother and child is rooted in the interactions of breastfeeding. This feeling sets the health and psychological foundation for years to come.
Costs less to breastfeed
- It costs around Rs 30,000 - 50,000 a year to formula-feed your baby. Whereas, breastfeeding is readily available and free of cost!
- Breast-fed babies are less likely to need excessive medical attention as they grow.