Although breastfeeding isn’t suitable for everyone, it provides a whole host of benefits for both mothers and their children. Although it can be inconvenient, and even dangerous in some cases, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months can provide protection and enhancement for children.
Breastfed babies tend to get sick less often and less extremely. Allergies may be prevented through breast feeding as well. A German study even found that breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 50%.
Breastfeeding is also linked to a lower chance of obesity in later life. Although some moms may regard the fact that breastfed babies need to eat more often than bottle fed babies as an inconvenience, it may actually help create better eating habits in the long run. Formula also contains more insulin than breastmilk, which induces fat cells. Additionally, breastfed babies initially gain weight more slowly, a fact that links bottle fed babies with obesity later on. These may be factors in why breastfed babies are also less likely to develop diabetes and high cholesterol.
The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in breast milk is packed with fatty acids, especially when mothers eat low-mercury fish. Studies have shown that children who are breastfed develop better cognitively. Although it did not seem to affect memory and learning, vocabulary, visual motor skills, and overall intelligence were higher in breastfed babies. One study focused particularly on infants born prematurely and showed that their mental development benefited as well, within less than two years. And although the fatty acids may play a huge role, the emotional bond invoked by breastfeeding also plays a part.
Help for Mothers
The act of breastfeeding induces oxytocin in the brain, a chemical known as the “love hormone,” that’s also induced by cuddling, sexual intercourse, and even just playing with the dog. However, in breastfeeding moms, this means stress is lowered, decreasing the chances of postpartum depression. Not only that, but it may help prevent some cancers—specifically breast and ovarian. Experts suspect that the changes in the tissue of the breasts and the reduced amount of estrogen produced during breastfeeding may be the cause.