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There are a multitude of breast milk benefits for both mother and baby that artificial infant formulas cannot supply. Not only does breast milk provide the very best nutrition for baby, it also offers health boosting ingredients like antibodies to fight infection, proteins, enzymes, and probiotics, or “good” bacteria, to promote healthy gastrointestinal flora. Mothers who breastfeed have also been shown to have added protection against certain diseases.
One of the primary breast milk benefits is that it is perfectly formulated for human infants. The fats, enzymes, and proteins contained in human breast milk are the right types and come in just the right amounts. Even with modern technology working to make formula as close to human milk as possible, it is still not as easily digested and does not contain hundreds of the natural ingredients found in mother’s milk.
Other breast milk benefits include the antibodies contained in breast milk. These are produced by the mother’s body and passed to the baby in order to help him fight off infections and illness until his own immune system kicks in fully. When the mother becomes ill, her body immediately produces antibodies to fight the illness and sends them to her breast in order to protect her growing infant.
Breast milk benefits also include a great bonding experience for both mother and child. Not only does breastfeeding require skin to skin contact during feedings, but during milk letdown the mother’s body produces a hormone called oxytocin. This is the chemical responsible for “bonding” feelings, helping the mother to become attached and protective over her baby.
Mothers also reap breast milk benefits from nursing their children. Studies have shown that women who breastfeed have a lower incidence of ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers when compared to women who have never breastfed. The reasons for this are not currently understood, but it is thought it may be because breastfeeding delays ovulation, thus allowing the ovaries, breasts, and uterus to “rest” for awhile before functioning again.
Some studies suggest that breast milk also helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), obesity, and allergies. The reasons for these findings are not entirely clear, but instances of these conditions are lower among children and adults who were breastfed as infants. It may be because artificial formula is made from cows’ milk, a known allergen for many. Exposure to allergens early in life have been linked to a greater chance of developing allergies later, and babies who aspirate small amounts of formula may experience periods of apnea, or frequent cessation of breathing during sleep. This may raise the risk of both allergies and SIDS in predisposed infants.