Friday, May 13, 2005

The Benefits Of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby. Breast milk contains the perfect balance of nutrients for growing babies. Breast milk takes care of baby’s thirst and hunger needs by first quenching thirst and next satisfying hunger. The flavor of breast milk changes depending on the food baby’s mother has consumed. The unique composition of breast milk changes, as baby grows, to meet baby’s changing nutritional requirements. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula.

Breastfeeding offers many benefits to baby including helping to prevent and reduce the severity of certain infections. Breast milk provides baby with antibodies, which work to protect baby from many common illnesses, such as respiratory and intestinal infections. Breastfeeding helps to mature baby’s immune system and even helps decrease the risk of childhood cancers. Bottle fed baby’s have higher incidents of ear infections, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal upset. Breast milk also provides protection from illness, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac sprue. Research has shown that breast fed babies generally have a better immune response to immunizations, such as polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and Haemophilus influenzae. Infants who are breast fed also fare better in relation to respiratory syncytial virus infection, a common, but potentially dangerous, respiratory infection.

Breastfeeding exclusively for a period of at least six months provides some protection against allergies, eczema, and asthma. It may even help prevent the development of childhood obesity.

Current research shows that breastfeeding is also beneficial for optimal brain growth. While it’s not possible to predict baby’s future SAT scores based soley on the consumption of breast milk, research does show breastfed babies average higher scores on I.Q. tests then bottle fed babies and, in general, earn higher grades in school. This may be, in part, due to the fact that ingredients in breast milk like DHA (docosohexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) are contributing factors in baby’s brain and retinal development. Another contributing factor may the tendency of breastfed babies to spend large amounts of time in the quiet alert state. The quiet alert state refers to a period of time when baby is bright eyed, alert, and attentive. The quiet alert state is a very important learning time for baby. More time spent in this state translates into more time spent learning.

Premature infants also benefit greatly from breastfeeding. Research has shown that breast milk is ideally suited to premature babies. Breast milk for premature infants, amazingly, contains more of certain nutrients than breast milk for a full term baby. The antibodies in breast milk are particularly important to premature babies because their immune systems are not as mature, which makes them more vulnerable to illness. Many premature babies are ready and able to breastfeed before they are able to bottle feed. Premature babies who are breast fed thrive more often than bottle fed, premature infants.

In addition to all the health benefits breastfeeding offers to infants, there are also emotional benefits to providing baby with breast milk. Breastfeeding helps to ensure essential mother-child bonding, make mom more aware of baby’s cues, and
helps mom learn to trust her maternal instincts.

Baby is not the only one who receives health benefits from breastfeeding. First and foremost, breastfeeding leads to healthier babies, which in turn leads to less mentally stressed moms. The physical benefits to the mother of a breastfeeding infant begins in the hospital. When baby is put to the breast soon after birth, the sucking of the baby helps the mother’s uterus to contract, reducing the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

Exclusive breastfeeding delays ovulation and menstruation is many women. Although breastfeeding is not a foolproof method of birth control, exclusive breastfeeding is believed to be highly effective in preventing pregnancy by delaying the mother’s return to fertility, in the first six postpartum months. After six months it is better to use another method of birth control to prevent pregnancy. In addition to birth control benefits, the delayed return of menstruation helps to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Women who breastfeed for at least one six month period during their lifetimes have a decreased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Research has shown that women who were breastfed as infants also receive the health benefit of a decreased risk of breast cancer.

As if all these benefits were not enough to convince you breastfeeding is the best way to feed baby, there is more. Breastfeeding moms experience, on average, more rapid and continuous weight loss after childbirth. Why? Breast milk production commonly uses up between 200 and 500 calories per day.

What more could any mom ask for? Breastfeeding is a health benefit laden way to feed baby and an effortless weight loss regimen all wrapped up in one!

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