Most women have heard by now that breast-feeding is the best and most economical option for babies in order to ensure adequate nutrition, but there are more benefits that may be new to some or a good reminder of why breast-feeding is so important. I have listed five benefits supported by research. There are many more benefits as well. Please feel free to comment with additional breast-feeding benefits (be sure to cite a source, either an article from a reputable site or a primary research), and I will post your comment.
1) Fewer infections. A study published last year in the Archives of Disease in Childhood showed that babies who are exclusively breast-fed have fewer and less severe infections than formula fed babies. For more information, read the following article:
2) Decreased risk of allergies. Exclusive breast-feeding for 4 months may reduce risk of asthma, eczema and food allergies, according to research published in the journal Pediatrics in 2008. For more information, read the following article:
3) Better behavior. According to a recent study published by British researchers, babies who are breast-fed for 4 months or longer are more likely to have better behavior. For more information on the study and findings, read the following article:
4) Decreased cancer risk for mom. Young women with a family history of breast cancer may be at a decreased risk of developing breast cancer after breast-feeding their newborn babies. In addition, breast-feeding also protects women from other reproductive system cancers including ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer. Here are some articles with more information:
5) Higher I.Q. Babies exclusively breast-fed for 3 months or more scored an average of 6 points higher on I.Q. tests at age 6 than those who were formula fed. This may be because breastmilk contains cholesterol, an important building block of brain tissue not found in infant formula. More information can be found in this article:
Women who are not able to breast-feed for medical reasons may still be able to provide their infant with breastmilk from a breastmilk bank. Check with your baby’s healthcare provider, midwife, or hospital maternity center for a referral.
If you are having breast-feeding difficulties or issues with milk production, you should seek out a lactation consultant (available service at most hospital maternity and postpartum centers) or contact the La Leche League for support and advice (www.llli.org). The sooner you get help, the greater your chances of being able to successfully breast-feed your baby.
About the Author: Dr. Bowker is a Naturopathic Physician and owner of Snohomish Valley Holistic Medicine. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Bowker serves as a Board member for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She has also been a guest speaker for community organizations and instructor of several community health classes. For more information, please visit her primary website: www.snovalleyholistic.com