Happy World Breastfeeding Week, everyone! We are thrilled to celebrate this week every year, although our mission to promote breastfeeding is a year round goal. As we dive into World Breastfeeding Week 2016, we will be exploring different aspects of the theme, Breastfeeding, a key to sustainable development. Today we are talking about how breastfeeding supports the health and well-being of babies and mothers.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies
We could talk for days about the health and wellness benefits of breastfeeding for babies. The short story is that breastfeeding meets the number one basic requirement for human infant survival – food. But we all know that breastfeeding is so much more than your average meal. It seems that every month new studies reveal even more incredible advantages of breastfeeding for the immediate and long-term health of children. Breast milk is a powerful resource for sustained health because it contains hundreds of nutrients that babies need to thrive outside of the womb. In fact, breast milk is the very best nutrition for babies on the planet and it evolves to meet the nutritional needs of your baby’s development.
One of the most phenomenal ways that breast milk supports babies is through antibodies. As babies have very weak and immature immune systems at birth, breast milk helps protect them from the many pathogens that could harm a newborn. This is especially important for preemies. When babies do get sick, breast milk adjusts to give them more antibodies, antioxidants and other essential nutrients to heal and recover.
Additionally, breastfeeding has been linked to improved physical health from infancy through adulthood. Overall, people who were breastfed as babies are healthier during their entire lifetime. Breastfed babies have reduced risk of certain types of cancers, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems, ear infections, allergies, obesity, tooth decay, SIDs, multiple sclerosis and a host of other bacterial and viral infections. Breastfeeding supports every aspect of physical health, from helping to stabilize organ function and bone, teeth and muscle development, to relieving pain and metabolizing nutrients more efficiently in the body.
Emotionally, breastfeeding supports a baby’s innate need for love, touch and safety. Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mothers and babies, which encourages feelings of security and helps uninhibit other areas of growth and development. Breastfeeding requires closeness and skin-to-skin contact so babies are calmed and soothed by their mothers’ heartbeat, warmth and tender touch. Babies who are breastfed also tend to sleep better, which lends itself to many benefits as well.
From a cognitive and behavioral standpoint, breastfeeding can be extremely advantageous. Studies show breastfed babies perform better in school, have higher IQs and earn greater academic achievements, plus they have better speech development on the whole. Social development is also stronger in babies who are breastfed, according to research data.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mothers
Babies aren’t the only ones who win when it comes to breastfeeding. Mothers benefit greatly from breastfeeding too. Because mothers who breastfeed have less menstrual cycles and therefore fewer “doses” of specific hormones in their system, they have a lower risk of certain types of cancer including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. Breastfeeding reduces the likelihood or severity of osteoporosis, anemia and postpartum hemorrhage in moms. Plus, nursing mothers have an easier time bonding with their babies and adjusting to the new family member, and quicker recovery after childbirth as breastfeeding encourages uterine contractions that releases the extra blood stored during pregnancy. Moms who breastfeed tend to have less postpartum depression because breastfeeding releases endorphins that help keep mothers in a happier state.
The seemingly endless health and well-being benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers are nothings short of extraordinary. This sustainable resource, the almighty breast milk, has incredible powers to protect, heal and advance the health and wellness of mothers and babies. As parents, this is a top priority for our families. We hope World Breastfeeding Week helps shed more light on these and many other benefits of breastfeeding for sustainable development.
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