After giving birth, each mother must make a decision to breastfeed or provide formula to feed her baby. It’s a personal decision, and it’s one that may draw strong opinions from family and friends. And, while the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, highly recommends breastfeeding, it is a decision that must be made by the mother.
However, new research has revealed the many benefits of breast milk for both mother and baby. For baby, breast milk offers numerous benefits that cannot be obtained in a can or bottle of formula. Even more, mothers benefit as well. In fact, studies have shown that mothers can reduce their risk for disease compared to mothers who don’t breastfeed.
Studies prove breast milk improves the health of the baby
Earlier this year, ABC News reported that American mothers don’t breastfeed their babies long enough for the benefits that can only be retrieved from breast milk. In fact, some mothers never breastfeed their babies at all. Only 29 percent of American mothers actually breastfeed, and they usually end up giving powdered or liquid formula within three months from birth.
While previous studies have shown that breast milk is associated with better baby’s cognitive development, the effect is even more reinforced when mothers nurse their babies through six months of age according to the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. Exclusive and extended breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life also builds immunity is such a way that it may prevent many illnesses and diseases:
- Ear infections
- Gastrointestinal infections
- Severe lower respiratory tract infections
- Atopic diseases (allergies, hay fever, asthma, and dermatitis)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Childhood leukemia
- Sudden infant death syndrome
Great news for mothers that breastfeed their children
While breastfeeding may bond mothers to their babies, they also reap health benefits according to the same study published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. With exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding (6 months), mothers may reduce breast cancer incidences. After reviewing 27 medical studies, women who nursed their babies were 20 percent less likely to develop “triple negative” breast cancer – the deadliest type of breast cancer. However, reducing breast cancer incidences isn’t the only risk nursing moms may escape.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also published a study on breastfeeding and its link to ovarian cancer. Again, mothers who prolonged nursing their babies had a reduced risk of the seventh deadliest cancer in women – ovarian cancer.
Other than the risk reduction for cancers, breastfeeding moms may also reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes according the Annals of Internal Medicine. A large group of 1,035 women who had developed gestational diabetes while pregnant were studied. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that increases a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes post pregnancy.
It turned out that nearly 50 percent of the mothers were less likely to develop the disease if they nursed their babies for six months. The authors of the study explained that breastfeeding improves both insulin sensitivity and metabolism which contribute to a reduced risk for the disease.
Breast milk is the best prevention of disease for mother and baby
Growing evidence indicates a protective effect of breast milk for both mother and baby – something that formula doesn’t provide. In fact, formula-fed babies grow too quickly and may be more susceptible to obesity and other chronic diseases later in life. While more than 70 percent of mothers choose this option, they may want to reconsider.
After all, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of all the benefits breast milk offers?