The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding

by Robin OBrien - Date: 2007-01-26 - Word Count: 917 Share This!

Many expectant mothers are told about the benefits of breastfeeding but many don't just realise how many benefits both mother and baby get from breastfeeding. The following list may surprise some mothers.

Unlike infant formula, breast milk is a living substance, full of mother's antibodies, protein and enzymes. Infant formula won't protect your baby from infection or disease, but your breast milk does. Also, unlike formula, breast milk changes consistency throughout your child's development; in fact, the breast milk you provide changes consistency during the feed! Your breast milk is perfectly formulated to your child; no woman's breast milk is exactly the same. Colostrum - often called the 'first milk' - is a concentrated form of breast milk and is the best thing you can give to your new born. The benefits of colostrum can't be overstated. Colostrum contains immune active cells that neutralize and kill most germs that could harm your child. The most beneficial antibody present is called IgA; your new born baby can't produce until it is older. Colostrum also lines your baby's gut with micro-organisms (intestinal flora) thus making digestion easier of later breast milk. Colostrum also stimulates the bowel into action, which helps to clear the meconium (your baby's first stools) from your child's bowel.

Breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day and your baby sucking at the breast causes contractions right after birth, which in turn leads to less bleeding for you, and helping your uterus to it's shape before pregnancy that much quicker. Breastfeeding doen't just help mom to get back and stay in shape, it can also help your baby avoid obesity in later life. A large survey - carried out in Germany - found compelling evidence that mothers who breastfed their babies were far less likely to have obese children in later years. And the longer the period in which babies received breast milk, the greater the benefits, with those breastfed for a year or longer more than five times less likely to become obese. The study couldn't say definitely why this was so, though it seems that breastfeeding 'programs' children not to be obese.

Babies who are breastfed don't suffer from ear infections as those that are bottle fed. This is mainly because of the leakage of formula from the bottle's nipple, which then runs into the baby's ear - a perfect place for bacteria to breed. A mother's breast and nipple are perfectly designed for suckling babies. When a breastfed baby is properly latched on, leakage is very rare. Also, a study done at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that breastfeeding protects children who might otherwise be highly susceptible to ear infections because of genetic traits affecting their immune systems.

Tooth decay is greatly reduced - in fact, almost non-existent with breastfed babies, whereas, baby bottle tooth decay is a common problem with babies fed infant formula. Infant formula typically contains higher sugar levels than breast milk, also many mothers who bottle feed develop a habit of letting their baby fall to sleep while feeding, thus leaving warm, sugary milk to flow over their babies teeth.

According to a new study - whose results are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, breastfeeding may help avoid the development of type 2 diabetes in children - and later in adult life. Breastfeeding appeared to lower diabetes risk by roughly 39%. In 2004, around 1.4 million U.S. adults aged 18 to 79 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In fact, the study concludes that as many as one in 20 cases of type 2 diabetes seen in industrialized nations could be attributable to formula feeding.

Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk for pre-menopausal breast cancer, meaning it strikes before the age of 50. The benefits will begin to show with three to six months of breast feeding and increase the longer that breast feeding continues.

Now, let's talk about money. Bottle feeding involves a lot of paraphernalia; bottles, nipples, sterilizers, cooler bags, not including the formula milk! This all costs money, quite a lot of it. You can avoid all this expense, simply by breastfeeding your child. Having read about all the other problems you can avoid if you breastfeed you'll realize that breastfeeding reduces potential medical bills. Also, a mother having to eat for two is a myth; all a mother has to do is eat a sensible, healthy diet and she will produce more than enough milk for her child.

The list of physical benefits for breastfeeding for both mother and baby go on and on. Sucking on the breast helps with the development or jaw alignment and the development of the cheekbone. Breastfed babies suffer less from urinary infections, lower blood pressure, diarrhoea and ear infections. But we mustn't forget the psychological and emotional benefits for both mother and child. No one could argue that the bond between a mother and suckling child is something incredibly special.

I hope the above has convinced you of the real benefits of breastfeeding but before you go, I'd like to remind you about the hassle factor. When your child wakes up in the middle of night, do you really want to get out of bed, boil water, make the formula, wait for it to cool, feed your baby, then go back to sleep knowing you'll have the bottle to wash in the morning? Or would you rather breastfeed your child, without having to get out of bed, with the milk at just the right temperature and then go back to sleep knowing there's nothing needs washing in the morning?

Related Tags: health, nursing, parenting, baby, child care, motherhood, breastfeeding, maternity, womens issues

Robin O'Brien is founder of a website that provides mattress reviews to help consumers buy top rated memory foam mattresses from some of the world's most respected manufacturers. You can also get advice on buying a Serta, Simmons, Jamison or Sealy mattress amongst others.

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