There are many benefits to breastfeeding for the mama, and there are notable and vital benefits for baby. Due to the incredible components found in breastmilk, including antibodies, anti-viruses, anti-parasites, anti-allergies, enzymes, and so much more, it can keep baby healthy.
Benefits for Baby in Breastfeeding
First off, breastfeeding decreases the likelihood of the following diseases and ailments:
- Respiratory illness
- Ear infections
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
For babies, it is also important to note that breastfeeding improves gastrointestinal and cognitive functions while promoting stress reduction. While breastfeeding is not a cure-all, it certainly lessens the chances of all of the above, making it a powerful tool against illness while promoting an all-around healthy baby.
Decreased Risk of Respiratory Illness
Researchers have found that formula-fed babies are four times more likely to get a respiratory illness, including a cold, influenza, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). This is when breastfeeding through the fall and winter months can be extremely helpful in keeping baby healthy.
Diarrhea and Gastrointestinal Function
Breastmilk is baby’s perfect first food to provide protection and an immune layer to their stomach and intestines. We all need bacteria in our gut to keep us healthy, and breastmilk provides the right good bacteria while also giving disease-fighting factors that keep babies intestines healthy and strong.
Preterm infants are at a higher risk for Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), which causes death in 15% of preterm infants. Providing preterm infants with breastmilk decreases the risk of NEC by over 50%. That is significant.
Breastfeeding Lessens the Chances of SIDS
Having a sick baby is an unfortunate occurrence; however, SIDS is tragic. Until recently, through fifty years of research, we knew very little about SIDS and how to prevent it. To this day, the precise causes of SIDS are still unknown. One of the top ways to prevent SIDS is breastfeeding. McVea and colleagues found that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS by 50% (source). There is a strong causal relationship between SIDS reduction and breastfeeding (source). This “strong protective effect” is worth considering when deciding if breastfeeding is a part of your goals.
The longer a baby breastfeeds, the longer post-breastfeeding protections last. Thus, the longer a mama can breastfeed, the longer the baby will reap the benefits!
You can learn more about breastfeeding benefits in the Breastfeeding Basics course.