Benefits of Breastfeeding
Jessie Lan, HK BioTek Intern
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), early initiation of breastfeeding should be within one hour of birth and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
Human milk is the superior infant food, it has everything the baby needs to grow. It contains live cells like leukocytes that fight infection, fats and proteins that ensures infant’s growth and maturation; essential fatty acids that optimize cognitive function and vision; other hormones, live antibacterial, antiviral cells and vitamins as well as carbohydrates which accounts for 40% of the total calories provided by breast milk. Such combination cannot be found in formula milk.
The benefits of breastfeeding extends beyond weaning. It has been noticed that children who were breastfed are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow instead of becoming overweight or even obese. It has been suggested that breastfeeding may lower risk of diabetes, obesity can some cancers.
Human breast milk is ever-changing, every single day from the beginning of feeding to the end. The infant can provide signals that stimulate changes in the mother’s milk, the mother’s body would therefore follow the cues and adjust the components of the breast milk.
Long-term studies have shown than breastfeeding reduces food allergies at least up till adolescence. Babies who are fed formula milk instead of human milk are up to seven times more vulnerable to food allergies. There are major two reasons behind breastfeeding preventing food allergies. First of all, babies who are being breastfed have less exposures to allergens. And less exposure means a lower chance of allergic reactions. Secondly, infants have an immature immune system and they depend heavily on the antibodies provided to them from their mothers before they are born. Only after around six months, babies start to have a functional immune system that produces antibodies.
Medical authorities like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend breastfeeding because breastfeeding is both beneficial for infants and the mother. Breastfeeding burns extra calories, ranging from 380-600 calories per day, therefore helps to lose pregnancy weight faster. It also helps reducing risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as osteoporosis.