Breast milk is nature’s perfect baby food. It contains immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that scientists have yet to replicate.
Breastfeeding your baby gives her plenty of benefits. Breast milk comes packed with minerals and nutrients to help your little one grow. Here are some advantages of breast milk for babies:
- Ear infections
- Juvenile diabetes
- Obesity in adolescence and adulthood
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SID)
Some studies also say that it enhances your baby’s brain growth.
1. Protects against allergies and eczema. If there’s a history of either in your family, it may be especially beneficial for you to breastfeed. Proteins in cow’s milk and soy milk formulas can stimulate an allergic reaction, while the proteins in human breast milk are more easily digested.
2. Causes less stomach upset, diarrhea, and constipation than formula. This is also because breast milk is so easy for your baby’s body to break down.
3. Reduces the risk of viruses, urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, ear infections, and respiratory infections. “The incidences of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies,” says infant-nutrition expert Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and the author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession (Elsevier-Mosby). Additionally, formula-fed infants are three times more likely to suffer from ear infections than breastfed babies, and up to five times more likely to suffer from pneumonia and lower respiratory-tract infections.
4. Lessens the risk of SIDS. Although the connection is unclear, breastfed infants account for only half as many SIDS cases as formula-fed infants do.
5. Makes vaccines more effective. Research shows that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies.
6. Protects against diseases such as spinal meningitis, type 1 diabetes, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. You pass your baby immune factors and white blood cells through breast milk.
7. May make your baby smarter. Research is still inconclusive, but studies are pointing toward breastfed babies having higher IQ scores later in life, even when taking socioeconomic factors into consideration. The fatty acids in breast milk are thought to be the brain boosters.
8. Could help prevent obesity. Some studies show that breastfed infants are less likely to be obese later in life. The theory is that nursing mothers get in tune with signals that their baby is full, and don’t overfeed. “You have to read your baby’s ‘satiety cues’ a little better, because unlike with a bottle, you can’t see how much he’s eaten. You have to rely on your own instincts and your baby’s behavior to know when your baby is full,” says Heather Kelly, an international board-certified lactation consultant in New York City and a member of the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council’s advisory board.
9. Brings baby close to you. Bottlefed babies form bonds with their parents too, of course, but the skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding is reassuring to a newborn.