Ten Insights to Breastfeeding

  1. 1. Infant’s Developing Immune System
    Breastfeeding offers protection through multiple mechanisms including antibody transmission through the mother’s milk, activation of genes, and multiple other immune substances. The immune mechanisms in breast milk overall trigger a lower inflammation responses in the infant. They also teach the infant’s immune system how to respond to foreign antibodies.
  2. 2. Infection Reduction
    • Gastrointestinal diseases – There is marked decrease in the number of stomach virus infections in the infant who is breastfed. The benefit is greatest if a child is exclusively breastfed because there is less exposure to viruses and bacteria.
    • Respiratory diseases – Studies show formula fed infants have a five-fold higher risk of lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia, as compared to breast fed infants. Studies also show that infants exclusively breastfed for greater than four months have a 72% lower risk of being hospitalized in their first year of life for a respiratory infection. Additionally, when respiratory infections occur in breastfed infants, they tend to be less severe.
    • Ear infections – There is a 50% lower chance of getting an ear infection in a child exclusively breastfed for 6 months as compared to a child exclusively formula fed. The mechanism for protection against these diseases involves a combination of immune factors including antibody secretion in the mother’s milk. The antibodies bind to the bacteria and viruses in the infant’s gut and respiratory tract minimizing the chance for infection.
  3. 3. Bonding
    Nursing releases oxytocin. The “love” hormone facilitates positive connection: increasing trust, relaxation and decreasing anxiety. Nursing and skin to skin contact help with an infant’s mental development establishing calm and secure emotional connections.
  4. 4. Allergies, Asthma and Eczema Decreased
    Research continues to evolve on the benefits of breastfeeding for allergy reduction. Allergies are well known as a trigger for asthma and eczema. The benefit appears greatest to those with a strong family history. For example, those children with a family history of eczema who are exclusively breastfed for 3 months will have an approximately 40% decreased risk of developing eczema. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding and waiting on the introduction of solids until 6 months of age to reduce the chance of developing food allergies.
  5. 5. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Reduced
    A history of breastfeeding is associated with 36% reduction in the risk of SIDS compared to formula fed infant.
  6. 6. Chronic Childhood Illnesses Lowered
    Research has shown a lower risk of childhood diabetes, leukemia and obesity in breastfed children.
  7. 7. Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) Protection for Premature Infants
    NEC is a severe intestinal disease that can occur in premature infants. Feeding premature infants breast milk greatly decreases their chance of NEC with its complications and prolonged hospitalization.
  8. 8. Oral Development
    Breastfeeding affects the development of an infant’s mouth. For example, breastfeeding helps the palate develop and widen providing more space when the teeth erupt.
  9. 9. Improves Maternal Health
    The longer a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk is  for developing  breast cancer. A study by Bartick et al (Obstetrics & Gynecology 2013) found that the economic cost to society from maternal health conditions occurring due to shortened breastfeeding duration was $17.4 billion. Reasons included increase in heart attacks, hypertension, breast cancer, premenopausal ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes in women who breastfeed less than recommended.
  10. 10. Economical
    Not only is breastfeeding less costly than formula. The economic impact of less short term and long term health problems is immense. A 2010 study published in Pediatrics found that if 90% of families could follow the recommendations for 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding then the United States could save $13 billion per year in pediatric health care costs and prevent 911 premature deaths.