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Benefits of Breastfeeding



The decision to breastfeed is a personal one that must meet the needs of a woman and her child. While we’ve all heard, “breastfeeding is best for your baby,” I’d like to preface this blog by saying that it is not for everyone. At times, babies are born with an inability to tolerate any type of milk and will need specialty formula. Commonly, a mother’s professional schedule doesn’t allow for consistent feedings. Maybe the mother has a health concern that prohibits her from breastfeeding. The child may also have difficulty latching. We should never make mothers feel guilty for choosing a different path. 


Yet, if breastfeeding is a comfortable, reasonable, and preferred option for you and your healthcare provider recommends the practice, your baby will receive a plethora of benefits, such as:


1. The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk help to protect babies from illness. These aspects of breastmilk are unique and change everyday to meet the infant’s needs. 


2. Breastfed babies have shown lower levels of asthma, leukemia, obesity, ear infections, eczema, lower respiratory infections, type 1 Diabetes, SIDS, and Necrotizing Enterocolitis. 


{ Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under the age of 1 }


{ Necrotizing Enterocolitis: disease of the intestines of premature infants where the wall of the intestine is invaded by bacteria, causing local infection and inflammation }


3. Colostrum helps protect the digestive system of newborns because it lines the gut with a protective layer that fights future infection and disease, while promoting the growth of good bacteria. Colostrum also helps regulate body temperature, blood sugar, metabolism, and lung function. 


{ Colostrum: the first milk you produce when starting to breastfeed, which has a yellowish tint, explaining its nickname, “Liquid Gold;” By the third to fifth day after giving birth, colostrum changes into mature milk with the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby thrive }


4. It’s thought that the baby’s saliva transfers chemicals to the mother’s body through breastfeeding, helping her body create milk that meets her childs changing needs.



It’s clear that breastfeeding is extremely beneficial to the baby. But did you know that the breastfeeding mother also receives physical and mental health benefits by breastfeeding?


1. Breastfeeding mothers have lower risk of type 2 Diabetes, certain types of breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. 


2. Skin to skin contact experienced during breastfeeding boosts the mother’s oxytocin levels, which aids in breast milk flow and has a calming effect over the woman. 



If you have more questions about breastfeeding, I recommend the following sources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health (DHHS)

  3. Crystal Karges, RDN, IBCLC (@crystalkarges)


Sources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. (link is external)Pediatrics; 129(3): e827-e841.

  2. Harder, T., Bergmann, R., Kallischnigg, G., Plagemann, A. (2005). Duration of breastfeeding and risk of overweight: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology; 162(5): 397-403.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). Committee Opinion No. 570: Breastfeeding in Underserved Women: Increasing Initiation and Continuation of Breastfeeding. (link is external)

  4. Schwarz, E.B., Ray, R.M., Stuebe, A.M., Allison, M.A., Ness, R.B., Freiberg, M.S., et al. (2009). Duration of lactation and risk factors for maternal cardiovascular disease. Obstetrics & Gynecology; 113(5): 974-982.

  5. Bartick, M., Reinhold, A. (2010). The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics; 125(5): e1048-e1056.

  6. Office of the Surgeon General. (2011). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.

  7. “Necrotizing Enterocolitis.” CHLA, 16 Oct. 2018, www.chla.org/necrotizing-enterocolitis.

  8. Person, et al. “Understanding Colostrum - the Baby Super Food.” Intermountainhealthcare.org, 20 Apr. 2018, intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/intermountain-moms/2018/04/understanding-colostrum-the-baby-super-food/. 




Disclaimer: Though the information presented on this platform is evidence-based, factual, and accurate according to resources such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics- EatRight.org, the National Institutes of Health, and published health books, I am still a student learning about the field of dietetics and am unable to give personalized dietetic advice or nutritional counseling. Everyone's body and needs are different. Before making any dietary changes, please consult your dietitian or doctor.

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