Why should you breastfeed?

We hear nowadays mothers saying that they don’t breastfeed, whether it is for esthetical reasons or because they think that breastfeeding is simply old-fashioned. But what they don’t know is that breastfeeding has several health benefits for both the mother and her infant. In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life, and it should be continued at least through the first 12 months, and thereafter as long as desired. Breast milk should be complemented with appropriate solid foods beginning at about 6 months of age. We will discuss in this article the major benefits of breastfeeding in order to encourage more mothers worldwide to breastfeed their children.

Human milk provides nutritional value, immunologic and antimicrobial components, hormones and enzymes that may contribute positively to the infant’s health and development. It also contains unique components that are not found in infant formulas and which make significant contributions to the preterm infant’s health.

When it comes to digestibility, the human milk is more digestible than cow’s milk. It’s true that human milk contains less proteins, but their quality is a lot better. In human milk, the proteins are easily digested. Furthermore, the lipids in human milk are structured to facilitate fat digestion and absorption.

Talking about immunity, human milk contains oligosaccharides that protect the infant because their structure mimics specific bacterial antigen receptors and prevents bacterial attachment to the host mucosa. Breastfeeding also promotes host defense because the mother’s milk contains several components that help increasing the infant’s immunity. The mother also produces antibodies and elaborates them in her milk.

Breastfeeding has also succeeded to show its effectiveness on the psychological and cognitive level. In fact, when a mother breastfeeds, it helps her make more bonding with her infant. And concerning the cognitive aspects, breastfeeding is able to improve long-term cognitive and motor abilities of the breastfed infant and these findings are correlated with the duration of breastfeeding.

As for the maternal benefits, a lactating mother can lose weight faster than a non-lactating mother after delivery, since breastfeeding requires a lot of energy from the mother’s body. Studies have also shown that nursing moms will have lower risks of developing premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

In conclusion, breastfeeding presents several benefits for the mother and her infant, and it showed lower rates of children’s morbidity and mortality around the world. We should also not forget to mention that it has such a low cost and is a natural way for feeding the child.

Elie Saadé (Dietitian and owner of Elie Saadé Dietary Clinic)

Stéphanie Nassar (Dietitian at Elie Saadé Dietary Clinic)

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