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Breast Feeding

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Benefits of Breastfeeding

The Benefits of Breastfeeding: Guide 2023

A common debate among mothers is whether to breastfeed or give formula milk to their precious babies. Human milk is the optimal feeding for all infants because of its health benefits to infants and their mothers.

Experts recommend breastfeeding  for approximately the first six months and to continue, along with the introduction of solid foods, for at least one year after birth, as long as the mother and infant mutually desire it.

The World Health Organization advises breastfeeding at least until the child is two. This might seem like a never-ending task to you, Mama, but in the long run, it’s the best health investment for our children.

How Does an Infant Benefit from Breastfeeding?

The infant receives immediate health advantages from breastfeeding, some of which continue after weaning. The best-studied benefits are the impacts on the development of the gastrointestinal and immunologic systems and infection prevention.

What are the Neurobehavioral Benefits?

Breastfeeding appears to have direct neurobehavioral benefits on infants. Early skin-to-skin contact between mothers and newborns during breastfeeding may program other benefits during this sensitive period of adaptation to life. In the short term, early skin-to-skin appears to reduce infant crying, increase blood sugar levels, and promote greater heart and lung stability in infants. It also supports continued nursing and aids in lactation establishment, which furthers the advantages of breastfeeding listed below.

In addition, there appears to be an analgesic (painkiller) effect of breastfeeding, probably due to maternal-infant bonding. Infants who are breastfed experience less stress during painful procedures than formula-fed infants. A possible mechanism is radiant warmth from skin-to-skin contact. Additionally, it is hypothesized that higher salivary cortisol levels in breastfed infants compared to formula-fed newborns mediate the analgesic benefit of nursing.

Does Supplementing with Formula Reduce the Benefits of Breastfeeding?

There is some evidence to suggest that supplementing with formula may reduce some of the benefits of breastfeeding, from the transfer of antibodies to the promotion of bonding between mother and baby.

Breastfeeding provides many benefits to both mother and baby, from the nutritional and immune-boosting properties of breast milk to the emotional benefits of skin-to-skin contact and the release of bonding hormones like oxytocin. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of complementary foods for at least a year or longer as mutually desired by mother and baby.

There is some evidence to suggest that supplementing with formula may reduce some of the benefits of breastfeeding, from the transfer of antibodies to the promotion of bonding between mother and baby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that mothers and healthcare providers work together to create a breastfeeding plan that works for both mother and baby, taking into account individual circumstances and preferences. This may involve supplementing with formula in some cases, but it is important to understand that formula is not a substitute for breast milk and may not provide all of the benefits that breastfeeding can offer.

Gastrointestinal (Digestive) Function

Human milk influences the best possible microbiota development and promotes the growth, development, and operation of the digestive system (healthy microorganisms).

In contrast to the formula, the infant’s gastrointestinal system is shielded from exposure to highly harmful chemicals by early, exclusive breastfeeding. Growth factors and gastrointestinal mediators are two ingredients in human milk that promote gastrointestinal growth and motility.

Immunoglobulins and platelet-activating factors are additional variables that serve as preventatives and lower the risk of infections (Immune components). Human milk also affects the microbiota’s proper growth, including the colonization of the neonatal digestive tract by the good bacteria Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species.

Prevention of Illnesses while Breastfeeding

According to studies, infants who get fed from human milk instead of infant formula had a lower risk of developing acute illnesses during that time. The majority of these advantages are the immunity to infectious diseases.

According to one study, breastfeeding links to less severe infections that require hospitalization throughout the first year of life, with each additional month of breastfeeding resulting in a 4% decrease in hospitalization.

The protective effect includes:

  • Gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting).
  • Respiratory Disease (Upper and lower respiratory tract infections).
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
  • Otitis media (middle ear Infection).
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Sepsis (blood Infection).

Prevention of Chronic long-term Illnesses

There are reported associations between the duration of breastfeeding and a reduction in the incidence of certain chronic conditions such as obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus, adult inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, certain allergic diseases, and celiac disease (gluten allergy) (IBD). Studies highlight the significance of the first year of life as a crucial time when nursing can create long-term consequences.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, a suggestion to all mothers is to always choose breastfeeding as the number one option for their precious babies, benefits of breastfeeding are not just because of the health benefits it provides but also for the bonding relationship it creates between mother and child.

Our References

Mamahood content is written by practicing physicians and healthcare professionals who rely on evidence-based resources, the latest research, and their experience to ensure our users get credible and updated information they can trust.

  • World Health Organization.Breastfeeding. Available at: (July 02, 2019).
  • Stiemsma LT, Michels KB. The Role of the Microbiome in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. Pediatrics 2018; 141.
  • Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, Dowswell T. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012; :CD003519.
  • Christensen N, Bruun S, Søndergaard J, et al. Breastfeeding and Infections in Early Childhood: A Cohort Study. Pediatrics 2020; 146.
  • Victora CG, Bahl R, Barros AJ, et al. breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. Lancet 2016; 387:475.

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