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The Benefits of Breastfeeding – For You and Your Baby

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1. Breastfeeding protects your baby from certain illnesses

When you choose to breastfeed, you’re providing your baby with a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA). This acts as an immune factor, which guards against invading germs with its protective layer on the mucous membranes of your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat. Secretory IgA is at its highest concentration in colostrum, the first milk your body produces for your baby. It’s also present in more mature breast milk, the concentration is just lower.

Studies around the world have shown that ear infections, meningitis, stomach viruses and lower respiratory illnesses occur less often in breastfed babies. Or, if they do happen, they’re less severe.

Your breast milk is unique to your baby. Whatever pathogens (virus and bacteria) that you’re exposed to, your body will respond by making secretory IgA that’s specific to those pathogens. This will protect your baby from whatever virus or bacteria you’re exposed to while breastfeeding.

The protective nature of  breastfeeding against illnesses actually impacts your baby beyond the breastfeeding stage. There have been studies showing how breastfed children have a reduced risk of developing certain childhood cancers. It’s not completely certain, but this is most likely due to antibodies present in the breast milk that help boost the baby’s immune system.

That’s not to mention the many diseases that can be avoided later in life as a result of breastfeeding, such as, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease.

 

images2. Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies

The same substance that is protecting your baby from illnesses (secretory IgA), helps prevent allergic reactions to food. Similar to its role in immunity against illnesses, it succeeds in providing a layer of protection to your baby’s intestinal tract. This protective layer keeps undigested proteins away from the gut, preventing allergic reactions.

This protective layer doesn’t form in babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk, so they’re often more vulnerable to inflammation and allergies.   

3. Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity

It’s true – breastfeeding can be an effective way of reducing your child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it.

There are several reasons experts think that breastfeeding affects weight gain later in life:

  • Breast milk contains less insulin than formula. (Insulin stimulates the creation of fat.)
  • Breastfed babies have more leptin in their system, a hormone that researchers believe plays a role in regulating appetite and fat.
  • Compared with breastfed babies, formula-fed infants gain weight more rapidly in the first weeks of life. This rapid weight gain is associated with later obesity.

4. Breastfeeding can reduce your risk of postpartum depression

Breastfeeding has been known for relaxing mothers. There’s actually scientific reasoning behind this: when you’re nursing, it leads to the release of the hormone oxytocin. Numerous animal studies on this hormone have found that it promotes nurturing and relaxation.

After reviewing more than 9,000 abstracts, The National Institutes of Health concluded that women who didn’t breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early on had a higher risk of postpartum depression.

 

This only covers a few of  the many health benefits of breastfeeding. You can learn more on WebMD’s Health & Your Baby blog. They’ll also give you tips and go over any questions and/or anxieties that may come up for a breastfeeding mother.

 

 

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