Truth be told, breast milk is an almost perfect mix of vitamins, proteins, fats and everything needed by an infant. Providing the ideal nutrition for your baby. But the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond essential nutrition. Recent studies have revealed the far-reaching psychological effects of breastfeeding on both mother and child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months with no juice, formula or water fed to the baby. If you are a new mother, still figuring what’s best for your baby, here are a few advantages of breastfeeding that might help clear the confusion for you.
- It helps in building immunity: Research has shown that babies who are not breastfed are at a higher risk of developing respiratory illnesses, diarrhea, ear infections, meningitis, stomach viruses, etc. The first milk a mother’s body produces for the baby contains large amounts of colostrum, which is rich in secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA). This substance forms a protective layer around the baby’s intestines, throat and nose, guarding it against invading germs.
- It boosts intelligence: Several studies have established a positive correlation between breastfeeding and cognitive development. The fatty acids in breast milk play a vital role in increasing brainpower, which in turn improves memory, motor skills, language skills and intelligence.
- It reduces the risk of obesity: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is a great way to ensure that your child doesn’t grow to be overweight or obese in his teen years and later life. It is so because it is known to aid in formation of healthy eating patterns that continue throughout life. Breast milk also contains less insulin and more leptin which helps in regulating appetite and fat.
- It facilitates socio-emotional development: Infants who are breastfed tend to have more vigour which is characterized by greater approach and activity, as compared to formula-fed babies. A longitudinal study following adults from 20 to 40 years discovered a greater amount of aggressive and hostile behaviour among adults who were not breastfed as infants.
- It lowers the risk of SIDS: According to a recent German study, exclusive breastfeeding at one month of age can cut the risk of sudden death infant syndrome (SIDS) to half. While the exact reason hasn’t been determined yet, researchers consider immunity and better infant sleeping patterns as probable factors.
- It helps in managing stress levels: Most women feel relaxed during breastfeeding as it triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes nurturing and relaxation. It also decreases the risk of postpartum depression, osteoporosis and some types of cancer.
Lactation is a natural method to ensure that all the essential nutrients are supplied in adequate amounts from the mother to the offspring. Additionally, breastfeeding has positive effects on the cognitive, behavioral and mental health of both mother and child. It also gives the perfect opportunity to form a lasting bond with the child who feels quite secure because of the physical closeness.