Celebrating Breastfeeding: What Are The Benefits?
We all know the saying “Breast is Best” but often most people don’t actually know why it is best. There has been lots of excellent research done all over the world on many different aspects of breastfeeding. This research has demonstrated that when a baby is not breastfed for the first three months of life they are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with diarrhoea, two times more likely to be admitted to hospital for breathing problems and or ear infections. The baby who does not receive breast milk for the first three months of life is also twice as likely to develop eczema and five times more likely to develop a urinary tract infection.
While this research is all great news and reason enough to celebrate breastfeeding these are well-established facts about the health risks of not breastfeeding. I thought it would be interesting to have a fresh look at some of the more recent research and some of the lesser known benefits of breastfeeding – just to get a complete picture of how important breastfeeding is to mother and infant health. I believe that by looking at the research we can better understand why the scientists, health professional and public health policy makers want more women to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of childhood obesity
Dr Richard Layte, a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland (ERSI) and Trinity College Dublin reported on the patterns of breastfeeding in Ireland with information collected from the Growing Up In Ireland Cohort Study. The research in this study is based on information from interviews of parents of 11,000 children born between 2007 and 2008 and what makes this research so interesting is that it is highly relevant - it is about present day Irish children. Dr Layte said that the research showed that children who were breastfed for 3 to 6 months have a 38% less risk of obesity at age 9 and children who were breastfed for six or more months are 51% less likely to be obese.
At present in Ireland, there is a childhood obesity epidemic, our childhood obesity rates are on a par with the US with 19% of all three-year-olds suffering from obesity. Simply put, the more babies who are breastfed the lower the childhood obesity rates will be. This Irish research is consistent with other international research on obesity and breastfeeding and childhood obesity can result in other health problems in later life, specifically heart disease and diabetes.
Let’s celebrate breastfeeding!
This is only a small sample of some of the recent research that has been done on breastfeeding. What all this information shows is that human babies are meant to receive human milk for at least the first 6 to 12 months of life. A baby’s intestinal system is designed to receive and digest its own mothers’ milk and if this doesn’t happen then the baby’s body will struggle to develop and maintain a fully functioning immune system. Equally, breastfeeding is a part of a woman’s normal healthy life cycle and it facilitates her body reach its full health potential. Add to this that the experience of breastfeeding for most mothers and babies is a wonderful and joyful experience it is easy to see why there is so much to celebrate!