As more research becomes available, it is increasingly clear that breastfeeding provides infinitely long-term health benefits to both baby and mom. A number of studies continue to support the fact that women who breast feed have a better health status.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding – without any formula or solid food – until a baby is six months old, followed by continued breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate foods through age two.
1. Mothers who breast feed run a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biological Anthropology conducted the study using data gathered from a relatively small group of 81 women. They said that, the correlation between breastfeeding and Alzheimer’s was especially consistent and significant, though it was much less common in women who had a history of dementia in their family. Explaining further they said, breastfeeding deprives the body of the hormone, progesterone, compensating for high levels of progesterone which are produced during pregnancy. Progesterone is known to have a desensitizing effect on the brain’s oestrogen receptors; and may play a role in protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Nursing helps mom lose weight after baby is born.
Breastfeeding requires an average of 500 extra calories per day and breastfeeding mothers who eat a normal diet lose the extra weight they gained during pregnancy faster than moms who choose to bottle feed. In one study, mothers who breastfed exclusively or partially had significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and were less above their pre-pregnancy weights at 1 month postpartum than mothers who fed formula exclusively.
3. Less incidence of postpartum depression:
Breastfeeding cuts new mothers’ risk of depression by half, according to a study published online August 21 in Maternal and Child Health. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 14,000 births in England and found that risk of postpartum depression was 50% lower among women who followed through on plans to breastfeed, BBC News reported.
4. The length of time a woman breastfeeds is linked to lowered risks of many cancers, diabetes and arthritis.
Many studies have shown that women who breastfeed have lower risks of developing breast cancer. Recently, data from 47 studies in 30 countries was re-examined. The study group concluded that the incidence of breast cancer in developed countries could be reduced by more than half if women had the number of births and lifetime duration of breastfeeding that have been common in developing countries until recently. According to the analysis, breastfeeding could account for almost two-thirds of this estimated reduction in breast cancer incidence. Women with Type I diabetes prior to their pregnancies tend to need less insulin while they breastfeed due to their reduced sugar levels. Breastfeeding mothers tend to have a high HDL cholesterol (Oyer 1989).
5. Natural birth control:
Many breastfeeding women do not ovulate for the first 6 months or so following the birth of a new baby. This is true only for those who are exclusively breastfeeding (no supplements or solid food), and have not yet gotten their periods back following childbirth. Night nursing encourages longer amenorrhoea (periodlessness).
6. Source of Adequate Nutrition for baby.
Research shows that the content of breast milk changes as the child ages, naturally addressing the increased need for more fat and energy. It adapts to the toddlers developing system, providing the right nutrition at the right time.
7. Breastfeeding promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora:
Another study shows that breastfeeding promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora, which are beneficial to the development of the child’s immune system. The study shows that there are significant changes in the intestinal bacterial composition from nine to 18 months following cessation of breastfeeding and other types of food being introduced. However, a child’s gut microbiota continues to evolve right up to the age of three, as it becomes increasingly complex and also more stable.
8. Children who were breastfed for more than six months score higher in cognitive, language and motor development tests as toddlers:
About 89 percent of the babies were ever breastfed. Of those, 13 percent were breastfed for less than one month, 52 percent for between one and six months and 35 percent for longer than six months. Children who were breastfed for any amount of time scored higher on the cognitive, receptive communication and fine motor portions of the test than children who weren’t breastfed. Scores on the cognitive, receptive and expressive communication and fine motor sections were highest among children who were breastfed for more than six months, the researchers reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
9. Nursing children get sick less often, and heal quicker.
Thousands of antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic antibodies in breast milk protect newborn against things like E. coli, pneumonia, step throat, salmonella, influenza, rotavirus, rubella, West Nile virus, allergies, asthma, mumps, measles, diabetes, meningitis and many cancers.
10. Breastfeeding is a source of comfort, support and security.
The accessible nature of the mother’s attention due to the breastfeeding relationship, combined with the hormonal benefits of consistent (loving) physical contact translates to an independence and security that comes from a deep-seated attachment. Strongly attached children are more empathetic and compassionate, easier to discipline, relate better to people and have a higher IQ.