Breastfeeding Benefits

Breastfeeding Benefits

By now you’ve probably heard that you should breastfeed your baby, when able, instead of using formula. But, do you know the specific conferred health benefits of breastfeeding? As August is National Breastfeeding Month, what better time to dive into all the benefits of breastfeeding?

Let’s start with baby. The following are baby-specific benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Aids in the colonization of the microbiome.
    • Beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are some of the most common bacteria found in breast milk that may contribute to the initial gut flora of the newborn.1
    • Breastmilk contains a large concentration of human milk oligosaccharides (HMO)-these sugar molecules are indigestible to newborns, but act as a prebiotic to feed beneficial gut microbes, such as Bifidobacterium.2
  • Supports the immune development of your baby and helps to protect your baby from illnesses and allergies by providing antibodies (specifically IgA – an antibody that plays a crucial role in the immune function of mucous membranes), lymphocytes, and beneficial bacteria.1,3-5
  • Provides the right amount of essential nutrients at any given time in your baby’s growth and development depending on the needs of your baby.3
    • The composition of fat, sugar, water, protein and minerals in breastmilk change depending on an infant’s needs.3
  • Breastfeeding has been correlated to lower incidences of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).1,3
  • Breastmilk is easier to digest than formula.3
  • Breastmilk may especially help preterm babies and the health implications they may face.3

Now for you! The following are the ways in which breastfeeding benefits mom:

  • Helps the uterus return to its normal size.3
  • Breastfeeding signals the release of oxytocin which causes the uterus to contract.3
  • May aid in weight loss attributed to your pregnancy3

All of these benefits are great, but you may be left wondering how long you should breastfeed your baby to ensure you are giving him/her the best start in life. It is recommended that you breastfeed your baby for at least the first six months of life up until one year as you introduce new foods.3

References: 1.Healthcare in America. J Kim Ph.D. Probiotics in breast milk. Reviewed January 2017. Accessed July 2018. 2. K. Le Doare, B. Holder, A. Bassett, P. S. Pannaraj: Mother’s Milk: A Purposeful Contribution to the Development of the Infant Microbiota and Immunity. In: Frontiers in immunology. Band 9, 2018, S. 361, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.00361, PMID 29599768, PMC 5863526. 3. ACOG FAQ Sheet. FAQ029. Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Care. Breastfeeding Your Baby. Reviewed November 2016. Accessed July 2018. 4. Rogier, E. W., Frantz, A. L., Bruno, M. E., Wedlund, L., Cohen, D. A., Stromberg, A. J., & Kaetzel, C. S. (2014). Secretory antibodies in breast milk promote long-term intestinal homeostasis by regulating the gut microbiota and host gene expression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(8), 3074-3079. 5. Bertotto A, Castellucci G, Fabietti G, Scalise F, Vaccaro R: Lymphocytes bearing the T cell receptor gamma delta in human breast milk. Arch Dis Child 1990, 65:1274–1275.

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