The choice to breastfeed or formula feed is a highly personal one, and new mothers will need to take many factors into consideration when making the decision. Experts suggest that new mothers breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months, if possible.
Besides providing you and your baby with time to bond, studies show that breastfeeding can protect your child from a variety of illnesses and conditions.
Breast milk is the most ideal nutrition for a newborn. It provides a vast array of nutrients that help to protect your baby from illness and help them with proper growth and development. It gives the baby several immune-boosting compounds that help provide the child with immunity, and it is also likely important for helping the child develop a healthy gut microbiome, which is now known to play a large role in keeping us healthy. Breastfed babies show a reduced risk for the following conditions:
1. Infections. Kids who breast feed have a lower chance of getting a variety of infections during childhood like gastrointestinal infections, respiratory tract infections, ear infections, and more. In one study, formula fed infants had higher rates of hospitalizations due to each infection studied.
2. Diarrhea. Babies who breast feed are at a much lower risk of having diarrhea. Results show that the most protection is given when babies are breastfed exclusively for at least the first six months and then some from six to 23 months of age.
3. Dental problems. The dental health of children who breast feed is often better as well. Children who breastfed for six months showed a 44 percent reduction in open bite, and a 72 percent reduction in moderate/severe malocclusion compared to those who never breast fed. Researchers believe that breastfeeding may be important for the proper development and growth of the muscles and bones of the jaw.
4. Leukemia Breastfeeding for at least six months was associated with a 19 percent reduction in risk for childhood leukemia compared to shorter durations or no breast feeding at all. Having ever breastfed, compared to never having breastfed, was associated with an 11 percent reduction in leukemia risk. This may be because breast milk may provide the child with a more favorable gut microbiome and more natural-killer immune cells.
5. Hospitalizations. In general, breastfeeding is associated with reduced hospitalizations during childhood compared to formula feeding, particularly due to infections, allergies, asthma, diarrhea, and more.
These are just a few of the many benefits of breastfeeding for newborns. Breastfeeding may also impact the cognitive development of children, for example. Children who were breastfed tend to have higher IQs and lower risk for ADHD.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your baby exclusively for the first six months. After that, and up to two years of age or beyond, you can continue to breastfeed while introducing appropriate foods to your child.
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Natural Health Advisory Institute Contributing Editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.
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