Benefits of Breastfeeding for a Baby
You may have heard that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast-feeding a baby for at least six months. Why? Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to protect the health of the baby. If everyone practiced breastfeeding, we could save about 820,000 children’s lives per year.1 Agree, this is a very convincing argument.
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk not only nourishes the baby’s body, but also protects it. It contains many living ingredients, including stem cells, white blood cells and beneficial bacteria2, as well as other biological active components – antibodies, enzymes and hormones3. Thanks to this, breast milk helps the body fight infections, prevents diseases and promotes healthy development.
Children who are fed exclusively breast milk during the first six months of life are less susceptible to diarrhea, vomiting, gastroenteritis, colds, flu, otitis media and respiratory infections, as well as aphthous stomatitis. 4 In addition, compared with children fed with the mixture, breast-fed babies are less than twice as likely to become victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or death in the cradle) .5
Of course, breast-fed babies also sometimes get sick, but breastfeeding a sick baby is even more beneficial. “If a baby or mother gets sick, the content of protective components increases in breast milk, 6” explains Professor Peter Hartmann of the University of Western Australia, a world-renowned expert on lactation and breastfeeding, “Children who are fed breast milk usually recover faster because in the mother’s body, antibodies are produced specifically for the infection that the child has contracted. ”
The beneficial effects of breastfeeding are not limited to nutrition and strengthening immunity. When the baby is upset or does not feel well, breastfeeding calms him, which is also a very important advantage. Studies have shown that breastfeeding during vaccination relieves pain and soothes the baby.7
The benefits of breast milk for premature babies
Breastmilk feeding is the best protection against potentially fatal illnesses, including sepsis, chronic lung disease, and necrotizing enterocolitis. 8 In addition, premature babies receiving breast milk are usually released faster from the hospital.9
“Feeding a premature baby with breast milk is the most useful thing you can do for him,” says Professor Hartmann, “every drop counts.” Doctors treat breast milk not just as food, but as a medicine. This is described in more detail in the article on the benefits of breast milk for premature babies.
The benefits of breastfeeding for baby sleep
You may have heard that children fed with the mixture sleep better. However, this is just a myth. Studies show that such children are asked to eat at night no less than breast-fed babies.10 But babies who are breast-fed fall asleep faster. Oxytocin, which is produced in the baby’s body when sucking, euthanizes the baby. And hormones and nucleotides in breast milk contribute to the formation of healthy circadian rhythms (sleep patterns) .11
Breastfeeding and brain development
During the first six months of life, the baby’s brain grows rapidly: its weight almost doubles during this important period.12 According to a study conducted by American experts, children of toddlers and preschool children who were breastfed for at least three months in infancy, which connects brain regions and transmits signals between them, is 20–30% higher compared to children who were not fed breast milk.13
The importance of breastfeeding for brain development is confirmed by studies from around the world. So, British researchers14 found that 16-year-old children who were breastfed for at least six months in infancy are more likely to get high marks on exams. A study in Brazil showed that people who were breast-fed at least a year in their infancy earn more by the age of 30.15
Even adjusted for family income and mother’s education, children who were fed exclusively with breast milk often had a higher IQ compared to children who were fed with a mixture.16 “This can be explained by different reasons,” says Professor Hartmann, “One of the assumptions is that the long chain fatty acids present in breast milk, in particular docosahexaenoic acid (DCG), have a positive effect on brain development and brain activity. ”17
One recent study suggests that breastfeeding also has a beneficial effect on baby behavior. The study involved 10,000 children, and as it turned out, those who were breastfeeding for more than four months were 30% less likely to have behavioral problems by age 5.