Feeding with breast milk is probably the intervention that, with lower economic costs, achieves greater benefits on people’s health.
Breastfeeding has been shown to have enormous benefits for both the baby -at a nutritional, immunological and emotional level-, as well as for the mother . Today we will focus on eleven important benefits of breastfeeding your baby from birth .
Both the WHO and UNICEF recommend the early initiation of breastfeeding – during the first hour after birth -, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continuation until two years of age or more, with the incorporation of complementary foods from six months .
Benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
1) It acts as the first “natural” vaccine
Breast milk can be considered the first immunization a baby receives right after birth. Colostrum and the first mother ‘s milk contain anti-infective components, nutrients and also antibodies to protect them from serious diseases that affect babies.
Breast milk improves the baby’s immune system and develops beneficial bacteria for the baby’s intestine, acting as a natural vaccine against bacteria and viruses that can develop diseases.
2) Protects the baby against diseases
Breastfeeding protects the baby from respiratory infections such as colds, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, etc; prevents diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, increased cholesterol and reduces the risk of allergies .
It also protects against necrotizing enterocolitis , a very serious disease that occurs in newborns -especially premature babies-, which causes the destruction of parts of the intestine.
It also protects against gastrointestinal and even urinary infections.
3) Protects against sudden death
A meta-analysis concludes that children who breastfeed are 60 percent less likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) .
This protective effect is greater if the baby drinks only breast milk and greater if he drinks it for a long time. In this case the figures are even better, since the risk of babies who are exclusively breastfed is 73 percent less .
The longer the baby is breastfed, the greater the health benefits.
4) Provide physical contact and promote bonding
Breastfeeding provides physical contact to babies which helps them feel more secure, warm and comforted, promoting the bond with the mother.
From birth it is recommended to put the baby to the breast as soon as it is born during the first hour of life . It is a key moment, since what is known as affective imprinting is established, which favors the bond between the two and the establishment of breastfeeding .
5) It provides the nutrients you need at all times
Breast milk adapts to each stage of the baby , providing what it needs most at each moment of its growth. For example, the breast milk of mothers who give birth to premature babies is different from those of full-term babies, acting as a natural medicine: it increases the levels of protein, sodium, fat, and free amino acids, while presenting higher levels of immunological factors.
As the child grows, the milk also becomes more energetic and caloric. Not in vain, and contrary to what is usually believed , from the first year the content of fat and calories increases in breast milk.
In addition, it adapts its composition when the baby is sick and helps him to recover sooner .
6) Prevents future illnesses
Breastfeeding helps prevent future diseases (of appearance in more adult ages) such as asthma , allergies, obesity , immune diseases such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, arteriosclerosis and myocardial infarction.
It even seems to have some protection against lymphomas and some other types of cancer.
7) Improves tooth development
Breastfeeding helps your baby’s mouth develop properly . The movement it makes when suckling helps prepare it for chewing and promotes correct breathing .
Breastfed children have better dental development with fewer cavities and orthodontic problems, since they reduce the risk of dental malocclusions by up to 50 percent.
8) Enhances intellectual and neurocognitive development
It enhances intellectual development thanks to the fact that breast milk has specific components that are essential for brain development.
Various studies show that children who are breastfed for a longer time have greater ease in executive functions , planning, social and emotional intelligence, with language and increase their interest in social relationships.
9) It is digested better
Thanks to its “magical” composition that adapts to the needs of the baby at each stage of growth, breast milk is better digested than any artificial milk.
Proof of this is the number of feedings that the newborn does. Because it is digested so quickly, especially in the first few days (they often have a bowel movement at the same time they eat) , newborns need to breastfeed very frequently: between 8 and 12 feeds a day, sometimes even more.
10) Reduces infant colic
By digesting better, and by not swallowing air due to the anatomical attachment of the baby to the nipple, babies who drink breast milk suffer gas and colic to a lesser extent .
Usually infant colic begins around the third week of life and disappears by the fourth month. We speak of infant colic when there is crying for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week and for more than three weeks.
11) Helps baby relax and sleep
The pulsatile release of oxytocin produces feelings of love towards her child in the mother, as well as feelings of well-being, confidence or self-esteem, and in the infant it produces relaxation, serenity .