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What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for Infants?

By Bethney Foster
Updated May 17, 2024
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The benefits of breastfeeding for infants include breast milk protecting babies against infections, illnesses in general, and allergies. Research also indicates that babies who are breastfed may develop higher IQs, social skills more quickly, and healthier teeth. Other benefits of breastfeeding for infants may be that it helps protect them from developing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and arthritis as they grow and age.

Breast milk contains the exact mix of nutrients and antibodies that infants need to grow. The composition of breast milk changes as the baby grows so that it has the exact nutrients the baby needs at various stages of development. The composition of breast milk is attributed to stronger bones in infants who are breastfed. Babies who are breastfed have fewer incidents of colic, colds, and other common illnesses in infants.

Babies who are breastfed have a lower rate of diarrhea and respiratory infection than infants who are fed formula. Some researchers think that the reduction of respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses in breastfed babies may explain why babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop SIDS, also known as sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding for infants may also provide some immunity against certain strains of influenza and may enhance the effectiveness of childhood vaccinations. Other illnesses against which breastfeeding may protect include ear infections, meningitis, and certain types of childhood cancer.

Protection against allergies is another benefit of breastfeeding for infants. Bottle-fed babies are likely to have an allergic reaction to formulas. It is rare for a baby to have an allergic reaction to breast milk. Breastfed babies also seem to be less likely to develop allergies as children and adults.

Breastfeeding for infants is also linked to cognitive development, higher scores on IQ tests, and larger vocabularies. The research also indicated that the longer the baby was breastfed, the higher the child scored in various intelligence tests. Researchers think fatty acids in breast milk as well as the influence of bonding on brain development are probably the reasons breastfeeding for infants is linked to intelligence.

Breastfeeding also has many benefits for the baby’s mom, and if the mom is happy, relaxed, and less stressed, this translates into benefits for the infant. Breastfeeding is less expensive than feeding formula. It can also protect the mother against postpartum depression and stress, help the mother to lose her pregnancy pounds more quickly, and reduce her chances of developing certain types of cancer.

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