Breastfeeding

The 111 Benefits of Breastfeeding—Part 1

I was fed formula when I was a baby, and I turned out just fine, if I do say so myself. My brothers and sisters were all formula fed, too, and nothing went wrong with them either.
I planned to carry on the tradition of formula feeding when I was pregnant with my first child. I figured nine months of carrying around my baby was enough of a sacrifice—I wanted my body back, and I was intimidated by the rules and horror stories I heard about breastfeeding.
My friends would tell me they couldn’t eat certain things before they breastfed their babies, and they complained about their cracked, painful nipples. I was sure breastfeeding wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be stared at by people when I attempted to breastfeed my baby in public.
My mind was made up, until one day when I was surfing the internet, and I found the website www.notmilk.com. That’s when it hit me—my feelings didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was giving my baby the best, healthiest start I could. If you’re on the fence about breastfeeding or you’ve decided not to do it, let me share with you some of the things I learned that changed my mind.

Part 1: Reduce Risk of Infection

  • I’m in no rush to give my baby thrush, and studies have shown breastfeeding is less likely to. I’ve seen babies with thrush—that white, thick coating in their mouth doesn’t harm them, but it does require medicine to get rid of it. So I pay attention when a study tells me that 18.5 percent of children who received both breast milk and milk in bottles carried thrush, while none of the children who only received breast milk did.
  • Breast milk helps protect against the trots in tots. Multiple studies have shown babies who are fed breast milk suffer from less acute gastroenteritis than those who are formula-fed. In one study, formula fed babies were almost four times more likely to have a diarrhea disease than those who were fed only breast milk.
  • Breast milk lowers enterovirus risk which makes me a happy mom. Enterovirus infections are no fun for babies or mothers. They cause respiratory illnesses, and involve coughing, sneezing and fever. This study shows that the risk of getting enterovirus went down as the number of times a baby was breastfed went up. The protection was greatest at 3 months, and slowly declined until the protection went away fully at 11 months.
  • Say what? Breastfeeding protects your baby’s ears. Breastfeeding results in a lower incidence of ear infections for your baby. I’ve seen babies with ear infections—they’re uncomfortable, always tugging on their ears and super cranky. I don’t blame them. I would be too.
  • Hib is nothing to mess with, and breastfeeding gives antibodies against it. Hib is a bacterial infection spread through the air via coughing or sneezing. Hib primarily affects babies and young children.
  • Breastfeeding protects the most against a host of infections. Studies have shown that many infections are less common among babies who are being breastfed. These infections are located throughout the body—ears, lungs, stomach, eyes and mouth.
  • Meningitis scares me so I’ll do anything to ward it off. Meningitis is something you don’t want to mess around with, and it often strikes with no warning. If breastfeeding can help lessen the risk of it, I will try it.
  • Breastfeeding is built-in infection protection. Breastfeeding offers protection against an infection of the small intestine that is caused by a parasite called Giardia lamblia. Giardiasis causes diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps. The last thing babies need is an infection that dehydrates them and causes them discomfort.
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis is not only hard to pronounce—it’s life threatening. This condition, in which intestinal tissue is destroyed, most often occurs in preemies. It is much more likely in babies who are formula fed.
  • The idea of pneumonia panics me. Don’t let your baby’s vaccines lull you into a false sense of security. Pneumococcal disease can happen to children even if they’ve been vaccinated, and it can result in a serious illness that requires trips to the emergency room and stays in hospitals. However, breastfeeding was associated with a decreased likelihood of an invasive pneumococcal disease.
  • Week-long abdominal cramps are no fun at any age. Salmonellosis risk can be decreased by breastfeeding your baby. Powdered formula can contain the pathogens that cause salmonella infection.
  • Wheezing is not one of the adorable sounds you want to hear your baby make. Respiratory infections are scary for parents and children. Any time there’s airway obstruction involved, it causes panic all the way around. Breastfeeding can cut down on the risk of respiratory illnesses, and that makes me breathe a lot easier.
  • Your mommy milk isn’t so easily contaminated. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns consumers that powdered infant formulas can sometimes be contaminated with Chronobacter. Chronobacter is a germ that can survive dry environments and can be deadly in infants.
  • Respiratory syncytial virus is common, but breastfeeding reduces hospitalization for it. This virus leads to infections of the respiratory tract and the lungs. Almost all kids are infected with this virus by their second birthday. Breastfeeding cuts down on the severity of the illness and the chances it will lead to a hospital stay.
  • Sepsis can affect many body parts, and can even be fatal. Some of the complications that can occur with sepsis can impact kidneys, brain, lungs and the heart. Breast milk can help cut down on the risk of sepsis.
  • No one should smoke around a baby, but if they do, breast milk can protect babies from tobacco effects. Seeing someone smoking around a baby makes my blood boil because they aren’t young enough to protect themselves from other people’s bad habits. At least with breast milk, they’re afforded some protection from severe childhood asthma.
  • UTIs will make babies cry, and breast milk keeps those painful infections at bay. Breastfeeding your baby will reduce their chances of getting a urinary tract infection. I know I would feel terrible if my choice to formula feed caused my baby to get UTIs.
Related:
Does Breastfeeding Protect Against Diabetes?

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of “The 111 Benefits of Breastfeeding.”
From Mom Loves Best

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