1330108 tn?1333677304

Tremendous Benefits of Breastfeeding

Great article!

TopicsChild Development

The TREMENDOUS Benefits of Doing What is Normal: Breastfeeding
By Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. on August 3, 2011 - 12:40pm
In accordance with the World Health Organization's recommendations, Gossip Girl's Kelly Rutherford breastfed for over two years! Prolonged breastfeeding provides a baseline of health effects for mom and baby alike.

Breastmilk is not only the baby's food, but it's also the baby's jump-start on immunity, autonomy, emotional development, intelligence, and future outcomes. The effects of breastfeeding extend throughout all of childhood, not just infancy, and even into adulthood.

1. Breastmilk builds the immune system properly.

Breastmilk contains thousands of ingredients that build the child's immune system and prevent diseases and infections.1,2 Breastmilk:

Contains antibodies, anti-viruses, anti-allergies, and anti-parasites3
Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)4-10
Is protective over the lifespan against high blood pressure,11-13 and cholesterol,14 cancer,15,16 diabetes17-20 and obesity.21-29
Is also protective against ear infections,30 respiratory problems,31 urinary tract infections,2 gastrointestinal problems2 and allergies32
Contains immunities that mothers have spent their lives developing, especially immunities from prevalent diseases in the immediate environment3
Additionally, exclusively breastfeeding coats the child's digestive tract and prevents the entrance of harmful pathogens into the body.2,3 Extended breastfeeding for at least one year, preferably two years, enhances the child's immune protection.2


2. Breastmilk changes with the growing nutritional needs of the child.

Breastmilk contains all the nutrition a baby needs for development during the first six months of life.2 After those six months, breastmilk still provides additional nutrition and immune system protection. Breastmilk:

Contains 200 fatty acid chains, including DHA/ARA, that the brain needs for development2
Provides hormones, growth factors, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, fat, carbohydrates, protein and water.3
Changes composition throughout each day, from feeding to feeding, from mother to mother, to adapt to the needs of the child. 33
The contents of breastmilk are specialized to fulfill the unique needs of each child. 33


3. Breastfeeding allows the child to regulate his own body and feedings.

At the breast, the child controls the size of each mouthful. The child is also able to regulate how much he eats and to stop when he feels full. This allows the child to grow in autonomy over his own nutritional needs and to learn how to read his bodily needs.  

Bottles constantly drip milk into the baby's mouth which undermines the ability to self-regulate feedings. 34,35

A breastfeeding child develops strong facial muscles which align jaws and teeth in the growing baby.


4. Breastfeeding correlates with positive outcomes later in life.

The bond babies develop with their moms due to breastfeeding leads to better emotional development and stability.36 The act of breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin contact involved releases the hormones serotonin and oxytocin in both the mom and baby, which encourages a strong emotional bond between them.37, 38

Additionally, breastfed children are protected against mental health problems39,40 and addictions.41 They tend to be higher in intelligence42-46 and more emotionally secure36 than children who were NOT breastfed.47


5. Breastmilk benefits premature babies.

Breast milk is the best medicine for all babies including the premature.48,49 A mother's body will automatically produce milk that is specially designed to nourish her premature baby.23 Breast milk improves a premature baby's immune system defenses, digestion, brain development, and overall growth.48-54 Breast milk helps to prevent infection and even death in the premature baby.52,55

**Check out our YouTube video comparing breastfeeding with formula feeding.**


NOTE: Co-authored with Stephanie Siewswerda and Elizabeth Ledden


Prior post: Myths About Formula Feeding

Next post: 5 Things You Thought You Knew about Breastfeeding



1) Goldman, A.S. Goldblum, R.M., & Hanson, L.A. (1990). Anti-inflammatory systems in human milk.  Adv Exp Med Biol, 262, 69-76.

2) Horta BL, Bahl R, Martinés JC, et al. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: systematic review and meta-analyses. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2007:1-57.

3) Walker, M. (1993). A fresh look at the risks of artificial infant feeding. Journal of Human Lactation 9(2). 97-107.

 4) Horne RS, Parslow PM, Ferens D, Watts AM, Adamson TM. Comparison of evoked arousability in breast and formula fed infants. Arch Dis Child. 2004;89(1):22-25

5 )Ford RPK, Taylor **, Mitchell EA, et al. Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Int J Epidemiol. 1993;22:885- 890

6) Mitchell EA, Taylor **, Ford RPK, et al. Four modifiable and other major risk factors for cot death: the New Zealand study. J Paediatr Child Health. 1992;28(suppl 1):S3-S8

7) Scragg LK, Mitchell EA, Tonkin SL, Hassall IB. Evaluation of the cot death prevention programme in South Auckland. N Z Med J. 1993;106: 8 -10

8) Alm B, Wennergren G, Norvenius SG, et al. Breast feeding and the sudden infant death syndrome in Scandinavia, 1992-95. Arch Dis Child. 2002;86:400 - 402

9) McVea KL, Turner PD, Peppler DK. The role of breastfeeding in sudden infant death syndrome. J Hum Lact. 2000;16:13-20

10) Mosko S, Richard C, McKenna J. Infant arousals during mother-infant bed sharing: implications for infant sleep and sudden infant death syndrome research. Pediatrics. 1997;100:841- 849

11) Horta BL, Bahl R, Martinés JC, et al. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: systematic review and meta-analyses. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2007:1-57.

12) Owen CG, Whincup PH, Gilg JA, et al. Effect of breast feeding in infancy on blood pressure in later life: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2003;327:1189-1195.

13) Martin RM, Gunnell D, Smith GD. Breastfeeding in infancy and blood pressure in later life: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2005;161:15-26.

14) Owen CG, Whincup PH, Odoki K, Gilg JA, Cook DG. Infant feeding and blood cholesterol: a study in adolescents and a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2002;110:597- 608

15) Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, et al. Breastfeeding and maternal and infant health outcomes in developed countries. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2007;153:1-186.

16) Kwan ML, Buffler PA, Abrams B, et al. Breastfeeding and the risk of childhood leukemia: a meta-analysis. Public Health Rep. 2004;119: 521-535.

17) Gerstein HC. Cow's milk exposure and type 1 diabetes mellitus. A critical overview of the clinical literature. Diabetes Care. 1994;17:13-19

18) Kostraba JN, Cruickshanks KJ, Lawler-Heavner J, et al. Early exposure to cow's milk and solid foods in infancy, genetic predisposition, and the risk of IDDM. Diabetes. 1993;42:288 -295

19) Pettit DJ, Forman MR, Hanson RL, Knowler WC, Bennett PH. Breast-feeding and the incidence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in Pima Indians. Lancet. 1997;350:166 -168

20) Perez-Bravo E, Carrasco E, Guitierrez-Lopez MD, Martinez MT, Lopez G, de los Rios MG. Genetic predisposition and environmental factors leading to the development of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in Chilean children. J Mol Med. 1996;74:105-109
3 Responses
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171768 tn?1324230099
This article is a bit gentler than the other one in presenting info and may be better received in other forums when BF vs formula debates arise =).
Helpful - 0
1330108 tn?1333677304
Agreed :)
Helpful - 0
615752 tn?1361867986
Once again, thanks for the info and keep it coming.
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