How does breastfeeding help my baby develop?

Breastfeeding is the direct feeding of babies with milk produced from the mother’s breast. And while this may seem pretty commonplace and straightforward, the World Health Organisation says that only about 2 of every 3 children are exclusively breastfed.

How does breastfeeding aid your child’s development?

Breast milk has the nutrients your baby needs.

Breast milk contains the perfect combination of all nutrients that a growing baby can need for proper development. What is even more fascinating is that the composition of breast milk evolves with your baby’s age and needs. Immediately after birth, the mother produces a thick, yellow form of milk called colostrum. It has high protein content, has a lot of beneficial compounds, is low in sugar and helps the baby’s digestive tract develop. As time goes on, the breast then produces more and more milk to boost the baby’s development. Breast milk is also easier for a growing baby to digest than infant feed. This is why the relevant heath authorities recommend six months of pure breastfeeding for your baby and a year of continued breastfeeding as other meals are being introduced into your baby’s diet.  

Breastfeeding reduces your baby’s chances of illness

Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having ear infections, respiratory illnesses, diarrhoea, Respiratory tract infections, Colds and infections, Gut infections, Intestinal tissue damage, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Allergic diseases, Celiac disease, Inflammatory bowel disease, Diabetes, Childhood leukaemia. This protection means they more likely to have less hospital visits and admissions .

Mother Breastfeeding baby
Breastfeeding has a lot of benefits to the mother and the child.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity

Studies have shown that breastfeeding for the right period of time significantly reduces the chances of obesity in babies. This may be because breastfeeding aides the development of the right bacteria in the baby’s gut. Breastfed babies also have higher leptin, a hormone which regulates fat storage and appetite, than formula-fed babies. In addition to this, babies can regulate how much milk they consume, thus reducing the risk of overfeeding and obesity.

Breastfeeding boosts immunity

Breast milk contains a lot of antibodies which boosts the baby’s immunity. This particularly applies to colostrum, the first milk. Colostrum provides immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies which protects the baby. The body forms these antibodies when the mother is exposed to an infection and are the body’s means of fighting the infection. During breastfeeding, these antibodies are passed to the child. Formula doesn’t provide antibody protection for babies and in fact, may put babies at risk if the water source is unhygienic and feeding bottles aren’t washed and sterilised with care.

Breastfeeding is linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. The physical touch also helps to increase the bonding between mother and child, thus making the baby feel safe and warm. Concurrently, breastfeeding also has some important benefits for mothers. It can help you lose pregnancy weight. It also helps reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. Learn about Nigerian foods that improve breastmilk supply If you have a 9 to 5 job click here for some tips on how to cope.

Breastfeeding guidance the during COVID – 19 pandemic by WHO
Learn how to increase your breast milk supply

Adda Bjarnadottir; 18/7/2020;