Why The Breast Is Best For The First 6 Months
For the first 6 months, your baby's digestive system was made to digest breast milk. Let's explore the various breastfeeding facts which demonstrate the advantage of breastfeeding for both mom and baby.
Mother’s milk provides baby with the perfect ratio of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. The essential fatty acids in breast milk, specifically the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA), are crucial to the baby’s cognitive development.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants until 6 months of life and to continue to breast feed for 12 months even after solid food is introduced. Following this recommendation will provide your infant’s immune system with lifelong benefit, as well as adding nutritional and developmental benefits.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the first lines of defense for the immune system. When this delicate environment is disrupted, the immune system is put under stress. Thus it has been shown that when babies are given solids too early (before 6 months) it can result in food allergies or sensitivities and a lifetime of the immune system under stress can develop to autoimmune diseases.
What are the breastfeeding facts which demonstrate it to be the best option for you and your baby?
Advantage of breastfeeding for baby:
Human milk feeding decreases the incidence and/or severity of a wide range of infectious diseases, such as:
• Bacterial Meningitis
• Respiratory tract infection
• Necrotizing enterocolitis
• Otitis Media (ear infections)
• Urinary tract infection
Breast milk may also protect the child against:
• Obesity – National Women’s Health Information Center (part of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services) states that babies who are breastfed tend to gain less unnecessary weight, which may help them to be less overweight later in life.)
• Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Advantage of breastfeeding to mom:
• Decreased postpartum bleeding
• More rapid uterine involution attributes to an increased concentration of oxytocin
• Earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight
• Decreased menstrual blood loss (lactational amenorrhea) – this however is NOT a significant form of birth control
• Decreased risk of breast cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer
More Breastfeeding Benefits to Mom & Baby
• Postneonatal infant mortality rates in the US are reduced by 21% in breastfed infants
• Decreased health care cost – Women who breastfeed are less likely to have to take time off of work to care for sick babies. In a cost study published in the April 1999 issue of Pediatrics, researchers determined that infants who are never breastfed would incur additional medical costs of $331 to $475 per year.
• Nursing mothers need to consume 500 extra calories per day to produce breast milk which means that she should be eating a wide variety of foods. This will introduce the baby to a variety of different tastes through the mother’s milk and therefore can help to deter picky eaters in the future.
• Greater intelligence
• New Zealand 2003 – Academy of Pediatric Physicians sponsored research that demonstrated the longer babies were breastfed the higher they scored on intelligence tests later in childhood.
• An extensive psychological study by the same group showed children who were nursed for more than 8 months, consistently outscored children raised on formula in reading comprehension and mathematical ability.
But what if you are having trouble breastfeeding or you can't breastfeed your baby?
For some women and families, breastfeeding is difficult and may not be an option, especially in cases such as adoption. I know you still want what is best for your developing baby, therefore listed below are resource links to help you solve breastfeeding problems, review options and compare formulas if breastfeeding is not an option.