The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding means that baby is fed only on breast milk. No additional food or milk is given, not even water. Undoubtedly, breast milk is the most nutritious and adequate food for your baby during the first six months of life. It’s replete with all the vitamins, proteins, fats and nutrients required by your baby. However, benefits of breast milk are not just limited to its nutritive value. There are a host of other advantages associated with breastfeeding your baby.
Here are 8 most important benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Breast milk is the most natural food for the babies. What makes ideal is the fact that the constitution of breast milk changes in accordance with the baby’s requirements. The colostrum, which is the first milk produced and secreted, is rich in antibodies to provide the new born much needed protection. After three to four days, mature milk starts coming in which is richer in sugar to meet the baby’s requirements. This is where the formula milk falls short as it is constant in its composition and doesn’t tailor itself as per the baby’s requirements. Breast milk is complete food for the babies and is easily digestible as opposed to formula foods.
There is enough evidence to suggest that exclusively breastfed babies develop a stronger immunity. They are less prone to develop meningitis, respiratory and ear infections and viral illness. Breast milk is replete with antibodies that boost baby’s immune system and helps in fighting diseases. It also protects babies from frequent bouts of diarrhea. Breastfed infants are at much lesser risk of developing asthma, pneumonia and allergies. Many formula foods are based on cow’s milk which can cause allergic reactions and lactose intolerance in babies. The immunoglobulins present in breast milk provide protection against allergic reactions and prevent inflammation of the intestinal walls.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is less commonly seen in breastfed babies. Longer the duration of breastfeeding, lower is the risk of baby dying from SIDS. Exclusively breastfed babies require frequent feeds as breast milk is digested easily. Because of this they are easily aroused from sleep. This is one factor that strongly lowers the SIDS risk in breastfed babies.
Infants who are exclusively breastfed for first six months show better cognitive development and IQ levels. Human milk is rich in growth factors, DHA and essential fats that are essential for proper development of central nervous system. Breastfed babies also have lesser chances of developing learning disorders and behavioral problems.
The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding is not only limited to infancy, they extend well beyond to childhood, teenage and adult life. Breastfed infants are at lesser risk of developing diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease and ulcerative colitis in later years of life.
Babies on formula feeds are more prone to be overweight. Breast milk is easily digestible and has all the required nutrients in optimal quantity. Therefore, breastfed babies put on right amount of weight and have proportionate height-weight ratio. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of child getting obese in later years of life. Breast fed infants develop healthier eating patterns.
The physical proximity and skin to skin contact makes the baby feel warm and secure. Breastfeeding fosters good emotional bonding between mother and the baby.
Breastfed babies are at lesser risk of developing fever and rashes post immunization. They also show better immune response.