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Importance of Breastfeeding by Hollie Strawn

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “strongly recommends” that women breastfeed their infants exclusively for the first 6 months of life. After the introduction of solid food, continuing breastfeeding is recommended for at least the 12th month. The benefits to both the mother and the infant are well-researched, and more benefits are being discovered through evolving research.

Breastmilk is the “perfect food” for your baby. The very first breast milk you produce, called colostrum, has a high nutrient content and antibodies designed to protect your baby in the first days of life. The colostrum is eventually replaced by what is called mature milk, and while it is thinner and not as nutrient-dense, it is designed to grow with your baby. This mature milk contains the right combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates your growing infant needs at all times. Breastmilk also contains certain proteins that protect against infection including lactoferrin, secretory IgA, and lysozyme. Secretory IgA in particular seems to give protection against any viruses and bacteria that the whole family, not just the mother, is exposed to. Leukocytes, another infection fighter, are also passed to the child with breast milk.

The antibodies that nursing moms pass to their infants have been shown to provide some protection against conditions such as ear infections, respiratory infections, and even meningitis. These antibodies may also protect children from developing allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

This complex and natural combination of nutrients, antibodies, and proteins is only found in human breast milk. The manufacturing of formula comes as close as possible to this human combination, but there are likely several things we haven’t discovered as of yet. Even with the discovery of these substances, we may not be able to reproduce or add these to the formula.

Breastfeeding can help moms too! Research shows that moms who breastfeed have a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, postpartum depression, and possibly osteoporosis. The comforts of the bonding time relax and benefit both mom and baby. These benefits should encourage new moms to try breastfeeding their infants if possible.

Breastfeeding Women’s
American Pregnancy Association
Breastfeeding NICHD (National Institute Child Health & Human Development)

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