There is much debate and discussion about whether or not to breastfeed. Some mothers simply can’t manage it while others choose not to. If there is a question in the mother’s mind about whether she will feed or not, perhaps it is worth noting some of the phenomenal impacts that breastfeeding can have.
Not only is breastfeeding convenient and more environmentally friendly, it has huge health benefits for mother and baby. Breastfeeding can help to prevent some childhood illnesses and has far-reaching benefits for the baby throughout its life.
The mother also benefits too. Aside from the bonding experience and the increased weight loss that breastfeeding produces, it can help to protect the mother from serious illnesses. Some cancers are found to occur less frequently in mothers and babies who have breastfed and the impact on the health services worldwide are enormous.
Parents can benefit by saving money by choosing to breastfeed. They can also impact their family planning, as breastfeeding appears to reduce a mother’s fertility for a number of months if she is breastfeeding.
So, if the decision whether or not to breastfeed is still not made, perhaps it is worth considering some of the amazing facts about babies who consume this mother’s liquid gold.
20 Breastfed Babies Have A Longer Life Span
Clinical research has actually proven that breastfeeding promotes longer life. The National Academy of Sciences undertook some research on parts of our DNA called telomeres. These protect the DNA from damage and resist infiltration from damaging cells. Telomeres become shorter as we grow older, but breastfeeding helps these protective cells to lengthen and last longer.
As humans are not born with full-length telomeres, scientists found there is a window in a baby’s life when the structure of telomeres can increase. If the baby is being breastfed during this window, life expectancy increases, according to Romper. Scientists followed a number of babies during their early days to compare the telomere length of babies who were breastfed and those who were formula fed to make their conclusions.
19 They're More Intelligent
A study in Britain that focused on 14,000 children, found conclusive proof that breastfed babies grow into more intelligent children. On average, the breastfed children had an IQ of 8 points higher than their formula-fed counterparts, reports the NHS.
This is believed to be the most comprehensive study on the effects of breastfeeding on intelligence, and the study concluded that by the age of 6, exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding produced children who were, in all cases, more intelligent.
A study in Brazil, undertaken over 30 years, found that breastfed babies were more likely to become well educated and well-paid adults.
18 Less Likely To Pack On The Pounds Later In Life
Scientific research shows that babies who are breastfed for the first six months of life are less likely to become obese adults, according to the Daily Mail.
The study focused on the idea that overfed babies become overfed, obese adults and that these patterns of eating are set early on. A breastfed baby can tell when it has had enough and pulls off the breast, whereas a formula fed baby will be encouraged to finish a bottle if it needs it or not. As the milk is sweet and comforting, the baby may take more than it needs for reasons other than hunger.
17 They Can Smell Mama's Milk
Research has shown that babies noses are sensitive enough to sniff out their mother’s milk. There are glands on the breast that produce a substance with an aroma that babies find irresistible, according to the Daily Mail.
If a mother has more of these glands, breastfed babies tend to feed more and more often. A French study examined the number of these areolar glands and found that women who have more of them, had breastfed babies who put on more weight. The more glands the mother had, the faster their milk came in, according to the French study.
16 Calmer And More Likely To Sleep
Hormonal changes are rife in a mother when she is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding promotes hormone release and the hormones are fed to the baby through the breastmilk. One such hormone is relaxin. This ‘feel good’ hormone makes the mother feel happier and calmer, therefore so does the baby.
The human body is incredibly clever. When breastmilk is produced, it changes according to the needs of the baby, so more relaxin is produced in the evening when mother and baby are preparing for sleep.
At night, a breastfed baby just needs to be lifted and put on the breast. This promotes a calmer, less alert baby who is more likely to drift off to sleep.
15 No Cavities Here!
Clinical dental studies carried out in America found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months, had better dental health, according to Mouth Healthy. They were less likely to have issues with an overbite or other teeth alignment problems.
Much of this research is based around the fact that the babies did not use bottles to be fed, so if milk is expressed, the statistics might be altered.
There were also fewer incidences of dental cavities. It is believed this is because of the sugary ingredients in the formula, whereas breast milk contains natural sweeteners and inbuilt protection for the teeth.
14 They Won't Be Picky Eaters In The Future
For the first year of life, a baby needs no more nutrition than breastmilk. If you wish to add some solid food, it can help babies get used to different textures and tastes. By two years old the baby will be eating mostly solid food and if still breastfed, this will be an extra snack, according to Breastfeeding Problems.
Breast milk contains elements of the food that the mother has eaten, so breastfed babies are exposed to a variety of flavors. Research found that this exposure to different foods makes children and adults who are more inclined to accept new flavors later in life.
13 Takes Less Time To Digest Milk Than Formula-Fed Babies
As breast milk is specifically designed for a baby, it is easily digestible by its tiny tummy and takes only 47 minutes to be fully digested. The vital proteins and nutrients are absorbed into the baby’s system, and as breastmilk has a natural laxative in it, it passes through the baby’s intestine quicker than formula, says East Cheshire NHS.
Formula milk tends to ‘sit’ in the baby’s stomach for longer and takes around 65 minutes to be digested. As there is no natural laxative in formula milk, babies are more likely to suffer from constipation and their stools are harder and smellier than those of breastfed babies.
12 Less Tummy Troubles
Women’s Health reports that breastfed babies have less diarrhea and vomiting illnesses than formula fed babies. As babies can get seriously dehydrated quickly, this means fewer visits to the emergency department for the parents as well. Breast milk is generally free of anything that may be irritating to the baby’s tummy.
Worldwide research shows that exclusively breastfed babies develop fewer tummy viruses and if they do experience a stomach related illness, it is less severe than in their formula-fed peers. The immunoglobulin found in colostrum is a super preventative substance that forms a layer of protection on the baby’s intestines to guard against infection.
11 Less Likely To Get Ear Infections
The Research Institute at National Children’s Hospital conducted research that showed breastfed babies were less likely to develop ear infections. Babies who participated in the research and who were breastfed for the first six months of life were found to be 17 percent less likely to develop ear infections, according to Hearing Like Me.
There are around a million white blood cells in a drop of breastmilk. These cells actually consume bacteria in the baby’s system, so infection of any sort is naturally defended against as a result of breastfeeding. Breast milk also contains immunoglobulin that coats the baby’s stomach and prevents infections from getting through.
10 They'll Save Mom And Dad Loads Of Money!
Breastfeeding saves money. The obvious reduction in cost comes from not having to buy formula and the accompanying paraphernalia that goes with it. Some detailed, technical studies were undertaken to assess these savings.
It found that on average, a formula fed baby cost parents over $1,700 in the first year, whereas the breastfed baby would cost nothing if it was exclusively breastfed, says The Simple Dollar.
More far-reaching savings include the time that parents have to take off work when babies are ill. Breastfed babies are less likely to be ill, so parents then take less time off work and have better earning potential.
9 Fewer Allergies
Pediatricians are convinced that babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life are less likely to develop asthma, eczema or food allergies, according to Web MD.
If there is any history of allergies in the family, exclusive breastfeeding for the first four months can reduce the baby’s risk of developing allergies. They definitely experience less respiratory allergies as the breastfeeding helps to build up resistance from natural protection.
Of course, allergies can occur, even in breastfed babies. It is not a guarantee, but research shows that it is less likely to happen if the baby has no family history and enjoys exclusive breastfeeding.
8 Fewer Childhood Issues
When babies are in the womb, they receive antibodies from the mother through the placenta. When they are born, they have enough antibodies to last for a period of time, however, breastmilk tops up and increases the level of antibodies. Babies are then more resistant to bacteria and infection than formula fed babies.
Mothers are full of stories of amazement that the entire family developed a nasty bug, while the breastfeeding baby had only a mild case, says Ask Dr. Sears. There is a proven difference in the biochemistry of breastfed babies, they are more resistant to infection and less likely to have serious illnesses if they are infected.
7 They Can't Be Allergic To Mom's Milk
A baby cannot be allergic to its mother’s milk, says Livestrong. Breast milk is specifically designed for a baby’s needs and breastfeeding can prevent some allergies, or reduce their seriousness if they occur.
If a baby does develop allergic reactions, it is more likely that the baby is allergic to something in the mother’s diet that can be eliminated. Of course, there are rare cases where babies cannot tolerate milk in any form due to a malformation in the stomach or liver, such as galactosemia. This does not mean the baby is allergic to the milk but rather cannot digest milk in any form.
6 Less Likely To Develop Diabetes
There are many benefits for mother and baby from breastfeeding, and one of these is that it helps to prevent the baby from developing diabetes. Not only are there benefits for the baby, but the mother is less likely to develop diabetes in later life as well, according to Cure Joy.
This is because milk production affects hormones, and increases the mother’s tolerance for glucose. It also increases insulin sensitivity, which are both healthy outcomes for the mother.
A Canadian study found that the reduction of diabetes for both mother and baby was around 20 percent if breastfeeding was exclusive for around six months.
5 Or Crib Risks
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or crib death, is a tragic, yet unexplained phenomenon. Research has shown that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from this heartbreaking condition.
According to Ask Dr. Sears, there are several factors that explain this outcome. First, breastfeeding helps fight infection, and infection is known to have an impact on the chance of developing SIDS. Secondly, premature babies are at greater risk of SIDS, yet breastfed premature babies seemed to suffer less than formula fed babies. Breastfeeding also promotes healthier, calmer sleep and reduces reflux and nasal congestion, which are all potential contributory factors for SIDS.
4 They Are Helping The Environment
Breastfeeding produces no waste products to be thrown away, requires no energy to be heated or prepared and therefore has a positive impact on the environment.
Plus, formula milk contains cow’s milk, cows eat grass and need feeding, sapping more of the earth’s resources. The plastic, silicone, and rubber needed for formula feeding equipment also have a negative effect on the environment, according to Digital Journal. These items contribute to landfills and involve transportation, which again, have negative environmental effects in terms of fuel usage and carbon emissions.
Breastfed babies get fewer illnesses, which also helps save resources in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. Evidently, a breastfed baby is doing its bit to save the planet.
3 Mom And Dad Spend Less
Breastfed babies are found to have far fewer illnesses and infections than formula fed babies, therefore they save health services costs around the world, according to the NHS. Breastfeeding has health benefits for the mother as well, which ultimately means she is less likely to be using medical services.
In the UK, it is believed that if mothers breastfed their babies, and fed them for longer, it would save the National Health Service around £40 million per year. This research was carried out by UNICEF and looked at some of the most common illnesses that breastfeeding helps to prevent in mothers and babies.
2 They Help With Family Planning
When a mother breastfeeds her baby, she is likely to have delayed ovulation. This means she is less fertile during the time she is feeding. This is because of the hormones produced by the mother during feeding. While breastfeeding is not a reliable form of contraception, it does impact the restart of menstruation and ovulation.
The knowledge of lactational infertility has been documented for centuries and it is now being promoted as another factor to try and encourage more mothers to breastfeed for longer. According to Glow, the World Health Organization is promoting six months of exclusive breastfeeding, followed by intermittent breastfeeding until the age of two.
1 Less Likely To Develop Certain Types Of Cells
Breastfeeding helps to lower the rates of cancer for mother and baby according to The World Cancer Research Fund. It can lower the rate of production of cancer-producing cells in the mother, also it can help to repair damaged DNA.
For the baby, there are fewer incidences of childhood leukemia. If a baby is exclusively breastfed for the first six months, its chances of developing the disease reduce by around 20 percent. As breastfed babies are less likely to be obese adults, they are less likely to develop cancers associated with obesity, such as pancreatic, kidney and breast cancer, in later life.