If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, it’s likely that breastfeeding has been recommended to you. And you’ve probably been told some of the well-known benefits of breastfeeding: providing the perfect form of nutrition to your baby, strengthening your baby’s immune system, enhancing the bond between you and your child, and helping you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “breastfeeding is important for the optimal health and development of infants and children.” Both the World Health Organization and the AAP recommend breast milk as the only source of nutrition for your infant during his or her first six months of life (no water, formula, other fluids, or food). Furthermore, they recommend continued breastfeeding in conjunction with food until your child is at least one year old.
But along with these commonly understood advantages of breastfeeding, there are a few lesser-known benefits you should also consider.
5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Breastfeeding
Although the commonly recognized benefits of breastfeeding are already extremely convincing, research continues to reveal countless more. Many are long-term, so some may be even more compelling than those you are already familiar with.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight or obese as children and adults.
- Breastfeeding helps prevent disease: Babies who are breastfed have a decreased risk of many types of disease during both childhood and adulthood, including diabetes (type 1 and type 2), heart disease, certain cancers, asthma, and some digestive disorders.
- Breast milk promotes brain development and intelligence. Children who are breastfed as babies score higher on IQ and cognitive tests than those who are formula-fed, regardless of socioeconomic status or mother’s intelligence.
- Children who are breastfed during infancy are better able to cope with stress than those who are not breastfed.
- Breastfeeding has many benefits for mom as well: A couple of the most outstanding are protection against breast and ovarian cancers, and the possible prevention of osteoporosis.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of the claims for infant formulas on the market, the AAP states: “It is impossible to perfectly mimic a substance as complex as human breast milk.” The health benefits of breastfeeding are extremely convincing, so it makes perfect sense to exclusively breast feed your newborn as long as possible.