Most people are aware that breastfeeding is said to benefit children and their mothers, but you may be surprised to learn just how important some of the benefits can be. Although not every woman is able to breastfeed, there are good reasons to offer breast milk to your baby if it is possible. Here are ten of the very best ways in which breastfeeding promotes your baby’s health and aids in child development.
1. It reduces the risk of respiratory problems
Breastfed children are three times less likely to need hospital treatment for severe or life-threatening complications of respiratory infections. In addition, they are substantially less likely to suffer from the wheezing, chest tightness and exercise intolerance that characterizes asthma.
2. It strengthens the jaw
Breastfeeding improves your child’s likelihood of having healthy jaw alignment, and breastfed babies are less likely to need braces in later life. It is thought that these health benefits are explained by the repetitive mouth movements involved in suckling, which improve muscle tone and strength in the jaw.
3. It may cut the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
Every parent dreads sudden infant death syndrome, especially because its causes are still not well understood. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report supporting a correlation between breastfeeding and a lower risk of sudden infant death.
4. It can improve immune system function
Breast milk is a source of cells called lymphocytes and macrophages, both of which play a vital role in the production of antibiotics that strengthen your baby’s resistance to disease. Studies on childhood immunity consistently suggest that breastfed babies grow up with more effective immune systems.
5. It supports digestive health
Breastfed children vomit less frequently, and they tend to have more regular bowel movements (involving fewer episodes of constipation or diarrhea). Even more importantly, babies who were breastfed are less likely to end up being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
6. It helps to protect children from arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis can be devastating when it develops a young age, causing long-term disabilities and chronic pain. It is therefore worth noting that breastfed children are around an impressive 60% less likely to suffer from juvenile forms of arthritis.
7. It helps to soothe babies to sleep
Many young children are soothed by the act of breastfeeding, and there is a sound chemical explanation behind this observation. Breast milk contains certain hormones that help to make a baby feel calm, relaxed and ready for sleep.
8. It cuts cancer risk
More evidence is mounting in support of the hypothesis that female babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from breast cancer in later life. Indeed, some studies report a 25% reduction in risk. Cancer researchers are exploring whether breast milk affords any protection against other forms of cancer, but the results are as yet inconclusive.
9. It could boost intelligence
For some children, breastfeeding could lead to an extra eight IQ points and consistently better grades in school. This correlation has been noted for decades, but it was only fairly recently discovered that the link between breastfeeding and IQ seems to depend on a particular genotype. Since this genotype is fairly common, a large percentage of children stand to benefit from being breastfed.
10. It reduces the risk of diabetes
Finally, a fascinating study conducted by Finnish researchers has found that a larger number of children who are given dairy products rather than breast milk typically go on to develop type one diabetes. It is thought that ingesting cow milk antibodies in childhood explains this finding.