It seems to be widely accepted that breast milk is the best nutrition for infants. It provides them with all the required nutrients, helps them build up their immune system, and creates that special bond between a mother and her baby. To ensure that the baby gets everything they need from their mother's milk, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of their lives. And then, every mother should decide for herself whether she wants to keep on feeding her baby with her milk, or not.
However, although we're all aware of the pros of breastfeeding, few of us know that many of these benefits will continue to be evident even when the infant grows into a toddler. Some of them will even be seen later in their life when they become school kids or adolescents.
Besides, science doesn't stand still and researchers are constantly making new discoveries on all the ways breastfeeding positively affects the child's entire life. For example, it's been confirmed that breastfed children are likely to have better brain development and higher IQ, compared to the kids who were fed by formula as infants. How great is that?
So, in fact, there's still a lot we don't know about breastfeeding. To see how useful this practice is, here is a list of the confirmed benefits of breastfeeding that will visible long after a mother weans her child.
20 A Strong Immune System
All parents are very cautious about exposing their kids to different bacteria and viruses, especially in the beginning of their life, when their immune system hasn't formed yet. But if you breastfeed your baby, their body will learn to resist different kinds of infectious diseases early on, as they get all the necessary antibodies from your milk. Lisa Fortin, a New York City based lactation consultant says,
"A breastfed baby will receive his immune system from his mom, from the first drops of rich colostrum to the disease-specific antibodies mom will make."
So when your child grows into a toddler, they're going to have a very stronger immune system than the children who weren't breastfed.
19 Fewer Allergies
Allergies occur due a malfunctioning immune system. Therefore, if the child was breastfed and their immune system is strong, they'll be less likely to have allergic reactions to any products or foods. Besides, the risk of such allergic diseases as asthma, dermatitis, and eczema is also reduced by at least 30% in toddlers who were breastfed as infants.
Breastfeeding is so helpful against the formation of allergies because it provides the baby's digestive tract with probiotic bacteria, and helps create the necessary microflora that will help prevent a number of chronic illnesses in the future. Of course, it doesn't mean that breastfeeding is a panacea against asthma and allergy, but it certainly helps reduce the risk.
18 Healthy Lifestyle
When you're breastfeeding your baby, they'll probably have the healthiest weight gain possible, provided you eat properly yourself to give all the right nutrients to your child. Besides, according to Lisa Fortin, breastfeeding can also help maintain a healthy lifestyle in kids later in life, even when they're no longer breastfed, due to the establishment of healthy eating habits.
"We know that children and adults who have been breastfed are more likely to be have a normal body composition,"
she says. "Feeding at the breast—even more so than drinking breast milk from a bottle—allows babies from the very earliest age to regulate their food intake. They can eat when they're hungry, take a break if they desire and stop when they're satiated."
17 Lower Risk Of Diabetes
Another chronic disease that can be prevented due to breastfeeding is diabetes.
According to numerous studies, toddlers who were breastfed as infants are about 20% less likely to develop this disease later in life.
Just like the normal weight gain, this is due to healthy dietary habits and proper functioning of the immune system. If your child learns to eat well from the beginning of their life and doesn't suffer from any other chronic illnesses, their risk to develop diabetes in childhood or any other period of life drops dramatically. But then again, it also depends on your child's lifestyle as breastfeeding is only a great kick-start in their life that should be followed by other good habits.
16 Better Response To Immunization
Vaccination is a widely debated issue these days, but most mothers choose to vaccinate their kids. However, sometimes babies don't respond to immunization well, as shown by fever, restlessness, or other issues after getting a shot. Did you know that breastfeeding help in this case, too?
It's been noticed that the children who were breastfed had a better response to vaccination. Besides, breastfeeding and immunization combined are believed to be the best way to keep the child healthy. Giving a child all the right nutrients hat will aid in resisting infections, breast milk certainly increases the benefits of vaccines. It's interesting that the vaccines against Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Haemophilus influenza work especially well, if the child was breastfed.
15 No Digestion Issues
As we've already mentioned, breast milk provides the child's digestive tract with probiotic bacteria and helps create the necessary microflora that will keep them healthy. Besides, breast milk is the easiest food for a little baby digest. Colostrum, as well as other elements and antibodies contained in a mother's breast milk help the digestive tract develop in a very healthy and steady way.
Milk doesn't hinder the digestive process, as it is processed by the organism more easily than formula.
This results in healthy bowel movements in infants.
As a result, when your child grows into a toddler, their digestive system is fully formed and ready to easily process other kinds of foods.
14 No Need For Braces
It can sound surprising that the toddler's oral health can depend on whether or not they were breastfed by their mother, but the connection is actually very simple. Breastfed kids have better developed facial muscles due to sucking on their mother's nipples. Compared to the silicone or latex nipples on bottles with formula, mommy's nipples are much softer and more pliant. For this reason, breastfed babies tend to have a better jaw alignment and are less likely to need braces to even out crooked teeth in older age. Besides, the elements contained in breast milk help prevent early tooth decay and help form healthy teeth.
13 Good Eyesight
Several studies have been conducted to see if the toddlers who were breastfed as infants had any difference in eye sight compared to those who were fed by formula.
As it turned out, visual development was more advanced in breastfed children.
Due to the elements naturally found in breast milk, the eye sight of a breastfed kid is likely to be better than that of kids who were formula fed. The effects were especially visible in children born prematurely.
It's been suggested that it happens because DHA (one of the elements contained in breast milk) is one of the most important structural components in the eye's retina, which is responsible for a healthy eye sight.
12 Isn't A Picky Eater
It's interesting that most of the toddlers, who were breastfed as infants, are less likely to become picky eaters and more eager to accept a wide variety of foods. The reason is simple. If, for example, you eat broccoli while you breastfeed your child, they get to know this food from an early age, and are then more likely to enjoy eating it later in life.
Follow a nice healthy diet yourself and then breastfeed your child. When the time will come to start introducing solid foods, you'll have an easier time getting your kid to eat broccoli (a food that's actually very tasty if you know how to cook it).
11 Doesn't Experience Vitamin Deficiency
We should never take the vitamins and minerals in our food for granted. We are able to stay healthy when we eat food rich in vitamins. And if it's important for us as adults, you can imagine how significant it is for our kids. So if you want to give your child the best chance to develop mentally and physically, make sure that they have all the vitamins and minerals they need.
And what's the best source of vitamins and minerals for a child? That's right, it's their mommy's breast milk!
When you breastfeed your child, you are making sure that they are getting everything they need for healthy development and that they will grow into an energetic toddler!
10 Doesn't Get Sick As Often
The result of all the above-mentioned benefits is obvious: A toddler who was breastfed as an infant doesn't get sick as often. Not only are you making sure your child is healthy and that their organism can resist all kinds of viruses and bacteria (for example, the risk of respiratory infections is believed to decrease by 72% in kids who were breastfed). But, you can also save on sick days.
After all, when your baby gets sick, you (or your partner) have to miss work to look after them. In some cases, it can be a hard thing to do, because not all bosses are willing make do without an employee whose kid is sick.
So if you breastfeed your child, you don't only make things better for them, but also for yourself.
9 Sleeps Very Well
When you're breastfeeding your baby, they are likely to fall asleep soon after the feeding, because they get more than just the vital elements from your milk. From being in your arms, they also get a large dose of hormone oxytocin, which plays an important role in social bonding.
Also called the "love hormone", it helps your child feel safer, fall asleep faster and have a better rest.
Besides, the elements contained in your breast milk also contribute to the healthy development of sleep-wake patterns, aka circadian rhythms.
As a result, when your baby grows into a toddler, they keep to these patterns and have a good, restful sleep every night.
8 A High IQ
Breastfeeding is connected to more than just your child's physical growth. There is also intellectual development. So if you want your child to be smart, try breastfeeding them for a longer period. Don't believe me? Then check out what science has to say about it. A study held in Brazil tracked 3,500 children who were breastfed as infants. The results of their research were astonishing.
It turned out that the longer the babies were breastfed, the higher they scored on an IQ test.
Let's not take this to mean that if you breastfeed your baby, you're going to raise a second Einstein. It does increase the possibility of them having a higher intelligence level, so it's worth a try!
7 A Good Brain Development
Besides, breastfeeding is believed to facilitate child's brain development. Lisa Fontin says that specific ingredients contained in breast milk, such as unique fatty acids, are very important for a healthy baby brain. It's interesting that entirety of these elements still can't be replicated for baby formulas.
According to Health Line, numerous studies have also shown that the toddlers who were breastfed as infants are less likely to develop behavioral issues and learning problems. These effects of breastfeeding are visible especially in children born prematurely. This means that preterm babies need their mother's breast milk even more so than other kids.
6 The Child Is Emotionally Healthy
As you certainly understand, the emotional development of a child is just as important as the physical and mental one. It's been proven by numerous studies that emotionally balanced children are more likely to grow into successful and even-tempered adults.
While your child is little, you can facilitate their emotional growth, and one of the tools you have to do this is breastfeeding.
When you're breastfeeding your baby, you create a special connection with them (we'll talk more about this later) and this connection helps them mature emotionally at an early age. The baby feels the comfort of nursing and learns to understand the world around them. Nothing can make this process easier than being in mom's arms and eating her milk.
5 Loves To Cuddle
Who doesn't like cuddly toddlers? These little human beings look so darn cute when they want to give you a hug, when you're feeling sad, when you're coming home after work, and even when you're joyful and they just want to share this joy with you.
If you want your toddler to be a little hugging monster that wants to embrace the entire world in their cute arms, keep in mind that breastfeeding them can help with this. Again, it has to do with this "love hormone" we've talked about earlier. Remember its scientific name? Right, it's oxytocin - the hormone released during the process of breastfeeding, as well as while the child is resting in their mom's arms.
It's no wonder that the kid will want to hug everyone after getting so much love!
4 Has A Strong Bond With Mom
The proper emotional development of a child and their desires to give everyone a good hug are not the only benefits. We also have the bond between mother and baby. This bond, once created, can never be ruined.
Being in their mom's arms for a long time affects certain regions in the baby's brain and helps them feel relaxed, cared for, and nurtured.
The special connection that is created in this process forms a solid foundation for the future relationship between mother and baby. Since it creates the atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, it can even help both of you cope with stress later in life, for example when your child is a toddler or a school kid and needs your support.
3 Easily Comforted
Speaking of the times when your child needs your support, if you breastfed your kids as an infant, you can also expect to have an easier time in stressful situations. When you breastfeed your infant, you help them soothe. No matter how stressed or restless they are, after some time of drinking your milk, they'll calm down and fall asleep. It distracts them from whatever stressed them out, as they concentrate on the process of sucking on your nipples and feeling warm and relaxed in your arms.
This habit doesn't go anywhere, even when you stop breastfeeding your child. When your toddler feels stressed out, talking to you and being held in your arms will bring a huge relief to them and decrease their stress level.
2 Happy And Confident!
Overall, the toddlers, who were breastfed as infants, are more likely to become not only healthy, but also strong, confident, and happy individuals. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, "As your child moves from babyhood toward toddlerhood, breastfeeding continues to act as a source of profound comfort and security, laying the groundwork for a confident, happy, and healthy future. For this reason, as well as the continued nutritional and immunologic benefits of breastfeeding, the AAP advises mothers to continue nursing beyond the first year for as long as mutually desired by mother and child."
So breastfeed your baby for as long as you want, to raise a healthy, joyful child!
1 And They Also Have A Healthy And Happy Mamma!
If you think that breastfeeding is only beneficial to a child, you're so wrong! It also has numerous benefits for you. First, if you breastfeed your child, you're using up all the extra estrogen released in your body, thus considerably reducing your risk of getting cancer in your reproductive organs. Second, it helps you quickly bounce back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Third, it effectively reduces the risk of developing post-natal depression, because how can you be depressed, when you're holding this cutie pie in your arms numerous times a day? And fourth, it calms you down, decreases your stress level, and makes you much happier in general!
And a happy mamma equals... what? Right, a happy kid!