- In This Feature
- Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breast Milk: The Perfect Food
- Protects Against Disease
- Health Benefits for Baby
- Improves Women's Health
- Quicker Weight Loss
- Reduces Obesity in Children and Teens
- Promotes Mother/Infant Bonding and Emotional Well-Being
- More Convenient/Less Expensive
- Expands Your Social Circle
- Encourages Infant/Father Bonding
Health Benefits for Baby
Not only does breastfeeding ward off infection, it offers a host of other advantages to your developing child.
Jaw and Teeth Development
Babies who nurse have to work harder than bottle-fed babies to draw liquid into their mouths. This strengthens their jaw muscles, helps shape their pallet, and promotes better tooth alignment.
- Improved Eyesight and Hand/Eye Coordination
Breastfeeding requires infants to use their hands and eyes to negotiate the distance between their mouth and mother's nipple. This helps them develop aim and good hand/eye coordination, particularly if they are switched from one breast to another within a single feed. Breast milk also contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that promotes healthy eye development.
- Fewer Cavities
Breastfeeding infants draw milk towards the back of their throat, away from their teeth. Formula from a bottle tends to pool in a baby's mouth, exposing gums and teeth to more sugar. Special enzymes in breast milk (those are absent in formula) also reduce the build-up of decay by quickening the breakdown of milk sugars.
- Less Gas and Fussiness
Breast milk is lower in protein than formula, making it easier for baby to digest. Likewise, the lipids and fatty acids are easier on a baby's stomach. This translates into less gas, constipation, and stomach upset that can be painful for a baby and cause sleep disruption (for you too!).
- May Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Reports from the National Institute of Health indicate that breastfeeding may reduce a baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There is still no definitive answer to why, but one theory suggests that the breast milk may protect infants from certain infections that can trigger SIDS.
- Breast Milk and Higher IQ
A growing number of studies, including one published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1999), suggests a correlation between breastfeeding and higher scores on children's IQ tests. The researchers re-evaluated previously published studies and found some promising results. Breastfed children scored approximately three points higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies whose mothers had comparable levels of education and came from similar socio-economic backgrounds. The same study found that the brain-boosting power of breast milk is particularly beneficial to low birth weight or premature infants.
"Low birth-weight infants showed larger differences than did normal birth-weight babies, suggesting that premature infants derive more benefits in cognitive development from breast milk than do full-term infants," states the study. "Finally, the cognitive developmental benefits of breastfeeding increased with duration."
DHA, (docosahexaenoic acid), the same fatty acid that fosters good eyesight also plays a critical role in healthy brain development. DHA and other fats found in breast milk promote growth of myelin, a fatty substance that insulates nerve fibers. Myelin is crucial to the brain's ability to effectively transmit information. Additionally, the cholesterol in breast milk provides building blocks for the manufacturing of important growth hormones and Vitamin D. Lactose, a natural milk sugar found in breast milk, but not formula, provides optimal fuel for brain tissue development.