20 Illnesses That Breastfeeding Can Prevent
At this point, no one doubts that breast milk represents the best food a mother can offer her baby. Numerous benefits exist for both mother and child. But did you know that there are many illnesses that breastfeeding can prevent?
Without entering into the debate about the decision to breastfeed or not, since each woman should choose freely and without guilt, the truth is that all scientific studies back up the positive results of breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization states that children should be exclusively breastfed for their first 6 months of life. If possible, this period should be prolonged until the age of 2 with a combination of other foods.
What is breast milk made of?
It may surprise you to learn that breast milk is a living fluid, capable of adapting to the nutritional and immunological requirements of the baby throughout his or her growth.
During the first three or four days after delivery, the mother produces colostrum. This is a thick, yellowish liquid rich in nutrients. Then, between 15 and 30 days after birth, the mother produces “mature milk.”
As surprising as it may seem, the contents of breast milk aren’t yet entirely known. Not only do they change depending on each woman, but also within each breast and according to the baby’s intake and the different stages of breastfeeding.
However, we can identify the following characteristics of breast milk:
- Contains the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that the baby needs.
- Provides digestive proteins, minerals (iron, calcium, zinc, sodium), vitamins (E, A, D, K) and the hormones the baby needs.
- Breast milk has antibodies that help prevent the baby from getting sick. For example, it contains immunoglobulins, which protect the infant’s mucous membranes; lymphocytes and macrophages, which act as a barrier against the environment; lactoferrin, which contributes to the absorption of iron in addition to protecting against germs and bacteria.
Given all this, it’s not surprising that breastfeeding can prevent illnesses. But which conditions are they specifically?
Some of the illnesses that breastfeeding can prevent
During breastfeeding, the nutrients the baby receives help fight certain health conditions:
- Antioxidants and quinones found in colostrum protect against a hemorrhagic disease.
- Immunoglobulins cover the digestive tract, even an immature one, and prevent the adherence of viruses, bacteria and parasites such as E. coli, rotavirus, salmonella, pneumococcus, staphylococcus, etc.
- Reduces the risk of respiratory infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia, since it helps the lungs mature.
- Reduces the chance of sudden infant death syndrome.
- Prevents allergies.
- Protects against skin conditions.
- Decreases the risk of conjunctivitis.
- Avoids ear infections.
- Is effective against both diarrhea and constipation.
- Improves neural connections and brain development.
- Reduces the risk of anemia.
- Improves visual ability.
In addition to all of the above, the function of breastfeeding goes beyond protecting the baby during the first years of life. It also has the ability to defend against the diseases of adulthood, such as asthma, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, etc.
“During the first three or four days after giving birth, the mother produces colostrum. Then, between 15 and 30 days after birth, the mother produces mature milk.”
Benefits for the mother
In addition to the illnesses that breastfeeding can prevent in the baby, this way of feeding also has many positive aspects for the mother.
At this stage, the bond generated between the mother and the baby goes far beyond what we imagine. It’s an unrepeatable and truly inexplicable connection.
Also, the brain increases its production of oxytocin during breastfeeding thanks to physical contact. This has a positive effect on the mother, since it decreases her risk of postpartum depression.
Due to the increase in this hormone, her level of confidence increases. The level of cortisol (the stress hormone) also decreases, which lowers anxiety and softens the sensation of pain and stimulates milk production.
While a woman breastfeeds, oxytocin activates all the hormones she needs for her own digestion. The function of the stomach and intestines improve to such an extent that it generates more efficient use of all the foods that the mother ingests.
Likewise, after delivery, breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract and return to its natural size more quickly.
Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast, ovarian or cervical cancer. Finally, an extra point in favor of breastfeeding is that it helps the mother to recover her figure more quickly.
Clearly breastfeeding can help prevent many diseases, and enormous benefits exist for the mother and baby. However, its benefits go beyond health. For example, we can highlight some other aspects, such as the constant availability of food for the baby.
In the same way, we know that the milk is always ready to go and has the right temperature. No equipment is needed to transport it.
And as if all this weren’t enough, it’s 100% hygienic and safe for the baby. Undoubtedly, breast milk represents an ideal food for babies.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Office of the Surgeon General (US); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); Office on Women’s Health (US). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2011. The Importance of Breastfeeding. [Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52687/
- UNICEF. Breastfeeding: major factor in preventing chronic diseases. (2011). [Online] Avaiable at: http://www.unicef.cn/en/press-release/international/116.html