Benefits for Breast-Fed Babies
Whether to breast-feed or go the bottle route has long been one of a mother’s crucial choices in raising her newborn child. Both options seemed equally healthy – until now. A flurry of new scientific evidence supports the idea that breast-feeding babies better protects them against acute infectious diseases like respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, as well as sudden infant death syndrome. It is highly likely that breast-feeding your baby better equips his or her immune system to fight off colds, flu, diarrhea, ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia, bowel infections, Crohn’s, juvenile diabetes, and, perhaps one of the most problematic issues in America today, obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that breast-feeding may even help protect children against diseases that have their onset years later, such as leukemia, asthma, diabetes, and several forms of lymphoma. The results of a recent study involving premature babies indicate that breast-feeding as compared to bottle-feeding increases a child’s I.Q. score, presumably as a result of fatty acids that help the brain develop.
What amazing secret power does human breast milk contain that bottled formulas lack? Some experts believe it changes a baby’s immune system permanently, teaching the latter how to protect itself against infection and disease at an early age. What is known for sure is that whatever illness a breastfeeding mother is exposed to causes her to produce antibodies within 3 or 4 days, which the baby then absorbs through her milk. The baby thus is immune to many common ailments to which other, bottle-fed tykes are still completely susceptible. Breast milk is home to certain agents that stop viruses and bacteria from attaching to cells in the baby’s body, instead forcing the baby’s stools to get rid of them for good. Studies show that breast-fed babies have 50% to 95% less infections than bottle-fed babies – a hefty amount. Studies executed in America have also shown that the rate of breast-feeding mothers increases with income, education, and age. Ultimately, when faced with the choice between breast and bottle, the smarter mothers of America breast-feed.
Benefits for Breast-Feeding Mothers
Sound too good to be true? That’s not all. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that extended breast-feeding reduces the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer in mother and daughter(s). Mothers who nurse may also be less at risk for Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis later in life. Breast-feeding (the longer the better) can help mothers drop the dreaded post-pregnancy pounds, since producing milk burns up to 500 extra calories each day. Letting your baby suckle at your bosom can also minimize bleeding in the uterus and cause it to more quickly contract to its pre-pregnancy size. Additionally, every time a woman nurses, she receives a heightened amount of oxytocin, an anti-anxiety hormone that can help her relax and better adjust to the strain and constant demands of a new baby.
Can’t Breast-Feed? Don’t Panic
If for some reason you can’t produce enough milk for your baby, or breast-feed at all, don’t panic. It’s perfectly normal for a woman to produce weak or limited amounts of milk, and doesn’t doom her baby to a lifetime of malnutrition and disease. There is no evidence that bottle-feeding your child has any detrimental effects on his or her health. And in America, where 60% of mothers with young children work, there may not always be time to snatch those elusive 10 or 15-minute breast-feeding periods throughout the day. Mothers who don’t have time or are physically incapable of providing their offspring with milk should not by any means feel guilty or inadequate. The most important criterion in deciding whether to breast-feed or not is the good of the family as a whole. If your baby will be protected against certain diseases, but you don’t have enough money to take more than the governmentally-allotted 12 weeks’ maternity leave off and still pay the rent, it would be advisable to mix breast-feeding your baby with formula-feeding, or stick with bottle-feeding entirely.
Infant formula is modeled on breast milk, and is the only safe, pediatrician-recommended alternative to breast-feeding. While experts theorize that since the taste of a mother’s milk changes daily according to what she consumes, and the taste of formula never does, babies who are breast-fed become exposed to a wider range of tastes at an earlier age, and thus are less picky eaters later in life, nothing is known for certain.
You may of course choose not to breast-feed your child out of inconvenience or pure personal preference. If you can breast-feed at all, though, it’s highly recommended that you do. A staggering amount of new evidence strongly suggests that you and your baby will be better protected against common and chronic illnesses of all kinds as a result for years to come.