How Breastfeeding Helps Your Baby’s Health
Breastfeeding has been shown to be one of the most important things you can do for your baby’s overall health, happiness and development, with the World Health Organization recommending that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months. The benefits of breast milk are many and varied; the following takes a brief look at some of the main health benefits for your baby that result from breastfeeding.
Protection against illness
Your breast milk is designed specifically for your baby, and studies have repeatedly linked breast milk with higher levels of health in babies. Breast milk can help reduce the chances of diabetes, digestive and respiratory problems, high cholesterol, Crohn’s disease and even ulcerative colitis. One of the biggest ways breast milk does this is by producing a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (lgA), which is present predominantly in the first few days of breast milk. This helps to protect the baby by forming protective coverings on the mucous membranes of your baby’s intestines, nose and throat, and is effectively your baby’s first natural vaccine.
Provides an opportunity to bond
Apart from all of the physiological benefits of breastfeeding your child, one of the most significant health benefits is that it provides a marvellous way for the mother and baby to bond. Countless studies have pointed to the importance of touch in developing relationships between a mother and her child, and breastfeeding allows for this most important of instinctual needs to be met.
Reduce chance of obesity
Your breast milk is designed specifically for your baby, and is therefore able to provide the right amounts of everything your baby needs, as well as being easy for your baby to digest without overloading their system in any way. Breastfeeding also helps train your child to eat only as much as they need to, and only when they are hungry, which will help them establish healthy eating habits early on in life, and significantly reduce the chance of dealing with obesity in their childhood or even later on in life.
Makes your baby smarter
While this is indeed a very big claim, increasing evidence seems to suggest that increased amounts of breast milk can positively affect a child’s IQ levels. Many put this down to the high level of nutrients in breast milk, and in particular long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, while others point to the act of suckling aiding in the development of oral muscles and vocabulary skills. Whatever it is, it seems that whether your baby suckles right from your breast or you use a breast pump and feed your little one via baby bottles of your milk, there seems to be a direct connection between breastfeeding and intelligence in babies.
There is nothing better for your baby than breast milk, as it is essentially a custom-made, natural way to provide your baby with absolutely everything they need. It is important to keep in mind that the healthier the mother is, the better quality her breast milk is going to be, so keep yourself healthy if you want your breast milk to work its magic. Breast milk is nature’s way of taking care of your little one, so if you can, always opt to breastfeed your child, because even though baby formula can be good, there is no substitute for the real thing.