Breastfeeding is a natural and essential part of early childhood development, providing numerous benefits to the baby as well as the mother.
Not only is breast milk uniquely tailored to meet a baby’s nutritional needs, but it also contains antibodies that can help protect against infections and diseases. For moms, breastfeeding can help with postpartum recovery and foster a deeper emotional bond with their children.
In this blog, we’ll explore the many benefits of breastfeeding for optimal health and well-being, both in the short and long term.
The Physical Health Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies
Breast milk has all the nutrients that a growing baby needs in the right proportions, making it the perfect food for infants. It is easily digestible and provides antibodies that protect the baby against infections, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
Along with its ability to prevent infections, breastfeeding can also aid in reducing fatal health conditions like sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Pan American Health Organization reports that infants who are breastfed have a 60% lower risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) compared to those who are not breastfed. The protective effect is even more significant for infants who are exclusively breastfed.
Breast milk contains fatty acids that are essential for brain development, making breastfed babies less likely to have cognitive delays or developmental disorders. Breastfeeding decreases the chances of infants developing overweight or obesity throughout their childhood and even as they mature into adults. This is because breast milk comprises hormones that help manage hunger and encourage healthy development.
Breastfeeding has been found to have long-term health benefits for children compared to those who were formula-fed. Research has suggested that using baby formulas may elevate the possibility of developing fatal gastrointestinal diseases like necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
According to studies published in a recent blog published by TorHoerman Law, a law firm looking into NEC-related lawsuits, premature infants who were fed human breast milk-based formula or were exclusively breastfed had a lower risk of developing NEC than those who were given bovine-based formulas.
If your child has developed NEC after being given bovine-based formula, you may be eligible to file an NEC lawsuit. Such legal actions aim to provide compensation for families and hold manufacturers accountable for the potential harm caused by their products.
How Breastfeeding Can Improve the Emotional Health of Mothers
Breastfeeding is not only beneficial for the physical health of babies but also has emotional benefits for both mothers and infants. There are some ways in which breastfeeding improves the emotional health of mothers.
- Bonding: Breastfeeding helps establish a close connection between a mother and her infant. Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding releases hormones like oxytocin, which promotes feelings of love and attachment between a mother and her child.
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Studies indicate that breastfeeding decreases stress and anxiety levels in mothers and babies alike. This is because breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones that encourage relaxation and a sense of serenity, ultimately helping to soothe and calm both the mother and the child.
- Better mental health outcomes: Research has demonstrated that breastfeeding can yield favorable outcomes for a mother’s emotional well-being. Breastfeeding has been associated with decreased incidence of postpartum depression and anxiety and may even diminish the likelihood of experiencing mood disorders in the future.
These emotional and mental health benefits of breastfeeding have been documented in recent studies published in the National Library of Medicine. Breastfeeding offers psychoneuroimmunological advantages to mothers that help reduce anxiety, most likely due to the hormone prolactin. It has been found that breastfeeding can directly alleviate symptoms of depression, but if breastfeeding is stopped early, this benefit is lost.
Moreover, mothers, after childbirth, tend to have reduced sleep. Formula feeding might contribute to a mother’s loss of sleep, while breastfeeding, especially direct breastfeeding, may be linked to longer sleep duration in mothers.
Overall, breastfeeding is beneficial for both the physical and emotional health of mothers and babies. By promoting feelings of closeness, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving mental health outcomes, breastfeeding offers a range of emotional benefits for mothers and supports healthy emotional development for babies.
Role of Breastfeeding in Decreasing Infant Mortality
Breastfeeding has a notable impact on decreasing the number of infant deaths. Breast milk is a complete source of nutrition for infants and is rich in antibodies, enzymes, and other essential nutrients that help strengthen their immune systems.
According to a study conducted by The Lancet, initiating breastfeeding can significantly reduce the risk of post-perinatal deaths, which occur between 7 to 364 days after birth. The study found a 26% reduction in the overall odds of post-perinatal deaths associated with breastfeeding. For late-neonatal deaths that occur between 7 to 27 days after birth, the reduction in infant mortality was even greater at 40%.
The study also discovered that there is a 19% decrease in deaths during the post-neonatal period (which spans from 28 to 364 days after birth) when breastfeeding is initiated. These findings further signify the crucial role that breastfeeding plays in reducing infant mortality rates.
Moreover, other studies also revealed that breastfed infants have a lower risk of dying from infectious diseases, being hospitalized for diarrhea, and experiencing respiratory and ear infections. Breastfeeding could potentially lower the likelihood of children developing asthma and allergic rhinitis, although the evidence for this claim is not as robust.
Moreover, breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of children and adults developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding mothers have a decreased long-term risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Even though breastfeeding offers various advantages, numerous mothers encounter obstacles that hinder them from breastfeeding their infants. These barriers can include a lack of support from healthcare providers or family members, difficulty breastfeeding in public, and lack of access to lactation resources.
By addressing these barriers and promoting breastfeeding as a normal and natural part of motherhood, we can help more mothers and babies experience the many benefits of breastfeeding.
How Breastfeeding Benefits the Environment and Society
Breastfeeding is not only beneficial for the health of the mother and baby, but it also has a positive impact on the environment. Formula production and distribution have a significant environmental impact, as it requires the use of natural resources such as water, energy, and raw materials. It eliminates the need for formula production and distribution, thus reducing the carbon footprint associated with formula feeding.
Breastfeeding can have societal benefits as well. Decreasing the demand for formula manufacturing and distribution can relieve pressure on the healthcare system and decrease healthcare expenses. It can also contribute to a more equitable society by reducing the health disparities between socio-economic classes.
Breastfeeding not only benefits the health of mothers and babies, but it also has a positive impact on the workplace and society as a whole. Formula feeding can be expensive, with families spending around $1500 a year on formula alone. By supporting breastfeeding in the workplace, employers can help reduce this financial burden on families, improve employee health, and reduce healthcare costs.
Moreover, breastfeeding can contribute to the overall well-being of communities. Breastfeeding mothers often form support networks and can provide guidance and assistance to other mothers in their communities. Thus, breastfeeding can contribute to the overall health of the community by reducing the spread of infectious diseases, as breast milk has antibodies that can protect babies from infections.
Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to both mother and baby, including enhanced immunity, better nutrition, and a reduced risk of various health conditions.
Breastfeeding provides an exceptional opportunity to create a connection with your infant while also enhancing their well-being and growth. With its many benefits, breastfeeding should be encouraged and supported as the preferred method of feeding infants.