Breastfeeding Benefits

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What Do the Experts Say About the Benefits of Breastfeeding?

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provides the following information about the benefits of breastfeeding for infants and their mothers.

What is Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding, also called nursing, can be an easy and inexpensive way for a mother to feed her child.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Policy Statement on Breastfeeding, women who don’t have health problems should exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least the first six months of life. The AAP suggests that women try to breastfeed for the first 12 months of life because of the benefits to both the mother and baby.

What Are The Benefits of Breastfeeding?

  • Breast milk provides the right balance of nutrients to help an infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler.
  • Breastfed infants, and those who are fed expressed breast milk, have fewer deaths during the first year and experience fewer illnesses than babies fed formula.
  • Some of the nutrients in breast milk also help protect an infant against some common childhood illnesses and infections, such as diarrhea, middle ear infections, and certain lung infections.
  • Some recent NICHD-supported research also suggests that breast milk contains important fatty acids (building blocks) that help an infant’s brain develop. Two specific fatty acids, known as DHA and AA, may help increase infants’ cognitive skills. Many types of infant formulas available in the United States are fortified with DHA and AA, and all formula available for preterm infants is fortified with these fatty acids.

Breastfeeding Also Benefits The Mother

  • In response to the baby’s sucking, the mother’s body releases a hormone that makes her uterus contract and get smaller.
  • Many mothers also get emotional benefits from breastfeeding because of the closeness of this interaction with the baby and from the satisfaction of helping to nourish their babies.
  • Some research suggest that mothers who breastfeed their babies have fewer episodes of post-delivery depression.
  • There is evolving evidence to indicate that certain types of cancer (such as breast, uterus, and ovarian cancer) occur less often in mothers who have breastfed their babies.
  • Many societies and cultures also encourage mothers to breastfeed, which can offer support to a new mother.

All of the above information can be found at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding.cfm