This is part two of a two-part series on breastfeeding. The first part talks about the benefits of breastfeeding for mom. Part two will go over the benefits of breastfeeding for baby.
Before I continue, I should disclose that I didn’t breastfeed my twins. I really wanted to, and I tried. It just didn’t work for me. I was incredibly disappointed, but I had to be okay with it. I didn’t have a choice. But for those women who do have a choice, I would strongly advise you to try it. And here’s why.
Breastmilk is special, and there’s nothing else like it. Although formula contains a lot of the important nutrients that babies need, it’s not identical to breastmilk.
- Decreased Infections – Breastmilk contains antibodies (secretory IgA) that help protect the infant against infections. In addition, these secretory IgA antibodies are specific to your baby. Your body produces these antibodies in response to your environment. Since you and your baby are living in the same environment, they are custom tailored to your baby as well.
- Decreased Allergies – The reasons for this are twofold: (1) the baby receives antibodies in the breastmilk; and (2) the baby is exposed to the allergens earlier in life through the breastmilk if mom is eating those specific foods.
Gut Mircobiome Benefits
- Changing Mix of Gut Bacteria – More and more research is showing that the mix of bacteria in the gut plays an important role in health throughout our lives. Babies start with a clean colon, or a clean slate, so to speak. One of the first decisions that we make as moms is whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed. This decision lays the foundation for your baby’s microbiome. The mix of gut bacteria influence our immunity as well as our metabolism. Have you ever heard that breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity later in life? It’s possible that it all ties back to the gut bacteria.
- Breastfed infants have demonstrated increased cognitive abilities versus formula-fed infants. Studies have shown higher IQ scores and higher vocabulary scores for breastfed.
- This could be related to the more recent studies that have shown an increase in brain matter for babies who were exclusively breastfed for three months versus babies who were either exclusively formula-fed or fed a combination of breastmilk and formula.
Decreased Risk of SIDS
- There are many reasons for this, so of which have been mentioned above. Breastfeeding improves brain development and helps develop immunity. Breastmilk is also easier for babies to digest, and it helps babies sleep better. Finally, breastfeeding helps to develop the muscles used in the suck-swallow-breathe coordination that is essential for babies to learn.
This list isn’t meant to cover every single benefit of breastfeeding for babies. I do think it highlights some of the major reasons though. Like I said in the beginning, if you are able to breastfeed, I highly recommend trying it. There are significant health benefits for both mom and baby. It’s one of those things that we have to decide from the beginning. Given the implications, both short-term and long-term for your baby, isn’t it worth it giving it a shot?