- 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
POSTS IN THIS SERIES
Post #1 discusses why you should care about breastfeeding, no matter who you are.
Post #2 discusses assumptions about infant formula that are wrong.
Post #3 discusses myths about infant formula.
Post #4 discusses the TREMENDOUS benefits of breastfeeding.
Post #5 addresses myths about breastfeeding.
**Check out our YouTube video on breastfeeding vs. formula.**
Post #6 discusses real truths about breastfeeding.
Post #7 provides links to resources for breastfeeding.
Post #8 summarizes the prior posts' main messages in blunt terms.
Post #9 responds to critics of #8.
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 BJ, Mitchell EA, et al. Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Int J Epidemiol. 1993;22:885- 890
6) Mitchell EA, Taylor BJ, 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
21) Singhal A, Farooqi IS, O'Rahilly S, Cole TJ, Fewtrell M, Lucas A. Early nutrition and leptin concentrations in later life. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 75:993-999
22) Armstrong J, Reilly JJ, Child Health Information Team. Breastfeeding and lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Lancet. 2002;359:2003-2004
23) Dewey KG, Heinig MJ, Nommsen LA, Peerson JM, Lonnerdal B. Breast-fed infants are leaner than formula-fed infants at 1 year of age: the DARLING study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993;57:140 -145
24) Arenz S, Ruckerl R, Koletzko B, Von Kries R. Breast-feeding and childhood obesity-a systematic review. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004;28:1247-1256
25) Grummer-Strawn LM, Mei Z. Does breastfeeding protect against pediatric overweight? Analysis of longitudinal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System. Pediatrics. 2004;113(2). Available at: www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/113/2/e81
26) Stettler N, Zemel BS, Kumanyika S, Stallings VA. Infant weight gain and childhood overweight status in a multicenter, cohort study. Pediatrics. 2002;109:194 -199
27) Gillman MW, Rifas-Shiman SL, Camargo CA, et al. Risk of overweight among adolescents who were breastfed as infants. JAMA. 2001;285: 2461-2467
28) Toschke AM, Vignerova J, Lhotska L, Osancova K, Koletzko B, von Kries R. Overweight and obesity in 6- to 14-year old Czech children in 1991: protective effect of breast-feeding. J Pediatr. 2002; 141: 764 -769
29) American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition. Prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics. 2003;112:424 - 430
30) Duncan, B., Ey, J., Holberg, C.J., Wright, A.L., Martinez, F.D., & Taussig, L.M. (1993). Exclusive breast-feeding for at least 4 months protects against otitis media. Pediatrics, 91, 867-72.
31) Chaulada, P.C. Arbes Jr., S.J., Dunson, D., & Zeldin, D.C. (2003). Breast-feeding and the prevalence of asthma and wheeze in children: analyses from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey, 1988-1994. J Allergy Clin Immunol, 111, 328-36.
32) Friedman, N. & Zeiger, R. (2005). The role of breast-feeding in the development of allergies and asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol, 115(6), 1238-48.
33) Hibberd, C., Brooke, O., Carter, N, Haug, M., & Harzer, G. (1982). Variation in the
composition of breastmilk during the first 5 weeks of lactation: implications for the feeding of preterm infants. Arch Dis Child, 57, 658-62.
34) Peres, K., Barros, A., Peres, M., & Victoria, C. (2007) Effects of breastfeeding and sucking habits on malocclusion in a birth cohort study. Rev. Saúde Pública, 41(3). 343-350. doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102007000300004.
35) Vazquez-Nava, F., Quezada-Castillo, J., Oviedo-Trevino, S., Saldivar-Gonzalez, A.H., Sanchez-Nuncio, H.R., Beltran-Guzman, F.J., & Vazquez-Rodriguez, E.M. (2006). Association between allergic rhinitis, bottle-feeding, non-nutritive sucking habits, and malocclusion in the primary dentition. Arch Dis Child, 91(10), 836-40.
36) Oddy, W. H., Kendall, G. E., Li, J., Jacoby, P., Robinson, M., de Klerk, N. H., et al. (2010). The long-term effects of breastfeeding on child and adolescent mental health: A pregnancy cohort study followed for 14 years. The Journal of Pediatrics, 156(4), 568-574.
37) Prescott, J.W. (1997). Breastfeeding: Brain Nutrients in Brain Development for Human Love and Peace. Touch the Future Newsletter.
38) Klaus M. Mother and infant: early emotional ties. Pediatrics 1998; 102(suppl E):1244-6.
39) McCreadie, R. G. (1997) The Nithsdale Schizophrenia Surveys 16. Breast-feeding and schizophrenia: preliminary results and hypotheses. British Journal of Psychiatry, 170, 334-337.
40) Peet , M., Poole, J. & Laugharne, J. (1997) Infant feeding and the development of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 24, 255-256.
41) Alati, R., Van Dooren, K., Najman, J.M., Williams, G.M., & Clavarino, A. (2009). Early weaning and alcohol disorders in offspring: Biological effect, mediating factors or residual confounding? Addiction, 104, 1324-1332.
42) Hoefer C, Hardy M. Later development of breast fed and artiﬁcially fed infants. JAMA 1929;92:615-9.
43) Pollock JI. Long-term associations with infant feeding in a clinically advantaged population of babies. Dev Med Child Neurol 1994;36:429-40.
44) Mortensen, E., Michaelsen, K., Sanders, S., Reinisch, J. (2002). The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence. JAMA. 287(18):2365-2371. doi:10.1001/jama.287.18.2365
45) Bauer, G., Ewald, S., Hoffman, J., & Dubanoski, R. (1991). Breastfeeding and cognitive development of three year old children. Psychol Rep, 68(3 pt. 2), 1218.
46) Taylor, B. & Wadsworth, J. (1984). Breastfeeding and child development at five years of age. Dev Med Child Neurol, 26, 73-80.
47) Labbok MH. Effects of breastfeeding on the mother. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001;48:143-158
48) Gartner, L.M., Morton, J., Lawrence, R.A., Naylor, A.J., O'Hare, D., Schanler, & R.J., Eldelman, A.I.; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. (2005). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115(2), 496-506.
49) Schanler RJ. The use of human milk for premature infants. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001;48:207-219
50) Horwood LJ, Darlow BA, Mogridge N. Breast milk feeding and cognitive ability at 7- 8 years. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2001;84: F23-F27
51) Amin SB, Merle KS, Orlando MS, Dalzell LE, Guillet R. Brainstem maturation in premature infants as a function of enteral feeding type. Pediatrics. 2000;106:318-322
52) Hylander MA, Strobino DM, Dhanireddy R. Human milk feedings and infection among very low birth weight infants. Pediatrics. 1998;102(3). Available at: www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/102/3/e38
53) Schanler RJ, Shulman RJ, Lau C. Feeding strategies for premature infants: beneficial outcomes of feeding fortified human milk versus preterm formula. Pediatrics. 1999;103:1150 -1157.
54) Blaymore Bier J, Oliver T, Ferguson A, Vohr BR. Human milk reduces outpatient upper respiratory symptoms in premature infants during their first year of life. J Perinatol. 2002;22:354 -359 and asthma in 6 year old children: findings of a prospective birth cohort study. BMJ. 1999;319:815- 819.
55) Chen, A., & Rogan, W. J. (2004). Breastfeeding and the Risk of Postneonatal Death in the United States.Pediatrics, 113(5), e435-e439.