Every parent wants to ensure their child is happy and healthy. What you feed your little one plays an essential part in making this a reality. For many parents, that means breast is best.
The benefits of breastmilk are so numerable. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months and continuing to up to two years of age.
Nutrient-rich breastmilk can give your child the best start when it comes to supporting life-long health and development. From providing a magical blend of vitamins and minerals to boosting your child’s immune system, read on to discover why breastmilk is the most natural superfood!
1. Colostrum: Liquid Gold
Colostrum is the name of the first few ounces of milk you produce for your baby. With a yellowish tint, this relatively small, but thick, amount of milk is often called “liquid gold.”
While breastmilk is full of nutrients, colostrum gives baby an added boost right out of the gate. Colostrum is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals that help a newborn’s digestive system grow and function in the first few days of life.
Additionally, colostrum includes immunoglobulins or the antibodies that pass from mom to baby, providing passive immunity. These antibodies lay the groundwork to protect your little bundle from infections and illnesses.
2. Adapting to Your Baby’s Needs
Just as your baby is growing and changing, so is your breastmilk. After the first several days following birth, your colostrum turns into a transitional milk.
Transitional milk lasts for about two weeks, and continues to have a high level of fat, lactose, and water-soluble vitamins.
Although this milk is thinner than colostrum, make no mistake, it continues to be full of nutrients, and even contains more calories than your “liquid gold.”
Mature milk is the breastmilk you produce for the majority of the time you breastfeed. It contains 90% water, which is essential to keep the baby hydrated. The remaining 10% of mature milk includes the elements for healthy growth, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
3. A Perfect Blend of Nutrients
Breastmilk provides your baby with the right balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrients needed to promote growth and healthy development.
Researchers believe that the transfer of the baby’s saliva during breastfeeding helps a mother’s body create breastmilk that meets the baby’s changing needs.
So, in a sense, you’re providing your child with a diet specific to them. Over time, your milk will continue to change to meet the baby’s needs.
For instance, as your little one begins to eat solid foods, the breastmilk you produce will adapt to provide a more concentrated set of nutrients they require.
4. Easy to Digest
The combination of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins in breastmilk is much easier for babies to digest. Breastmilk also contains digestive enzymes that help in digestion, which reduces the likelihood your little one will have an upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation.
5. Immunization Booster
Babies’ immunities are much lower than those of adults. Providing your child with nutrient-packed breastmilk can help them not only grow their immune system but support their future immunizations.
One research study even indicates that when breastfed babies are vaccinated, they are more likely to produce higher levels of antibodies in comparison to formula-fed babies. This can help their immunizations work better!
Studies have also found that the anti-inflammatory components of breastmilk can help infants be less likely to run fevers after their immunizations. A less fussy baby makes everyone happier after shots!
6. Preventing Illness
The nutrients and antibodies found in breastmilk protect infants from several standard and scary health issues. In fact, according to The Texas Department of State Health Services, babies who exclusively receive breastmilk are much less likely to be sick during their first two months of life than formula fed babies.
According to the American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the antibodies in breastmilk protect infants from ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and common allergies.
7. Improved Immune System
Additionally, the milk you provide your child by breastfeeding can act as a type of immunization. For instance, if you get sick, continue to breastfeed your child as the antibodies that your body makes will be passed through your milk to help protect your child too.
These potent antibodies can kill the bacteria in your child’s gastrointestinal tract before they can make him or her sick. That’s pretty amazing!
Of course, it’s essential to be cautious with any over-the-counter cold or flu medications you might be taking while breastfeeding. Some may cause your baby to be irritable and even reduce your milk supply.
8. Fights Disease
Research suggests that breastfed infants have a lower risk of developing some life-long diseases.
The Office of Women’s Health reports that the cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk lower a child’s risk of asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.
9. Reduced Risk of SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the leading cause of infant mortality. However, research has found that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS significantly.
A 2017 study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that breastfeeding for at least two months was associated with a decreased risk of SIDS.
10. Cognitive Development
Some research suggests that feeding your child breastmilk can help in their long-term cognitive development.
Many studies show that breastfeeding is associated with higher scores in cognitive, language, and motor development as early as 18 months of age.
Another study examined the cognitive development of five-year-olds. The study found that the breastfed children scored an average of seven points higher than their non-breastfed peers on a picture vocabulary test.
While it’s important to know the health benefits of breastmilk, it’s also nice to know that breastfeeding is kind to your wallet.
Breastmilk is free. Formula is not free. Feeding your child breastmilk may help save parents $1,500 a year.
Of course, there are some costs associated with breastfeeding. If you’re returning to work and plan to express your milk, you’ll need to invest in a breast pump and milk storage supplies.
Pro tip: check your medical insurance coverage, as many will cover all or a portion of the cost of a breast pump.
The Benefits are Undeniable
Additionally, the health benefits of breastmilk mean your child is less likely to get sick and require a doctors visit. That peace of mind might be priceless.