Health benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding

By: Cara Rosenbloom, R.D.

If you’re new to motherhood, breastfeeding is one of the first challenges that you’ll face. Despite it being natural, sometimes it’s not easy to master! But, the health benefits are worth the perseverance. Most birthing hospitals have breastfeeding clinics that offer help and support — it’s important to know you’re not alone.

Breast milk is uniquely produced by each mother for her baby, and it changes to meet your developing baby’s needs. It contains the right amount of vital nutrients, plus antibodies that help protect against disease – protection that lasts lifelong. The World Health Organization recommends that breast milk should be the only food for the first six months of baby’s life.

Breastfeeding is associated with many health benefits, including:

  • Protection against childhood obesity
  • Immune system support
  • Protection against certain illnesses[1]

And the health benefits last well beyond the infant years: Adults who were breastfed as babies have better cholesterol levels and are less likely to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes.[2] Breastfeeding is important for mothers’ health too. It offers mom a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Vitamin D is key

All breastfed babies need vitamin D supplements daily, in a dosage of 10µg (400 IU). This will prevent vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to rickets. You can buy vitamin D drops that are simple for the baby to take – just one drop on your breast or a pacifier is all they need each day.

 

[1] http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php#a3

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704490/

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