When it comes to food, the science is clear – there’s nothing better than breast milk for your baby. The benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition.
Photo: David Leo Veksler on Flickr
1. Breastmilk provides all the food and drink a baby needs for about the first six months of life.
2. During breastfeeding the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is released, which enhances attachment between mother and baby.
3. Breastmilk provides the baby with resistance to disease via antibodies and other components, which fight infections.
4. There is a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women who breastfeed. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of childhood cancers such as leukaemia and Hodgkin’s disease.
5. There is an association between breastfeeding and intelligence, with breastfed babies having improved performance in intelligence tests.
6. Breastfed babies have less orthodontic issues later in life if they have been breastfed for nine months or more.
7. Common allergies such as asthma, eczema and food allergies are less common in babies breastfed for at least four months.
8. Breastfed babies have fewer dirty nappies compared to formula fed babies.
9. Breastfeeding is convenient – readily available and at the right temperature, day or night.
10. Breastfeeding may lower a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Breastfeeding, while natural, is still a learned skill, at least for the mother.
- Help with breastfeeding can be sought from a midwife or from organisations such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
- Babies can be breastfed anywhere and anytime. Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.
- Partners can help by being enthusiastic, supportive and knowledgeable. Research shows that when partners are more supportive and positive about breastfeeding, it has a strong influence on getting started and how long it lasts.