August 1 to 7, 2013 is World Breastfeeding Week, and the World Health Organization, which helps sponsor the event, has listed on their website “10 facts about breastfeeding”. Here we will list some of their reasons that breastfeeding is good both for the child and the health of the mother too.
First though let’s describe a new study, which says that breastfed children turn out smarter too. Published in the July 29 JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers enrolled 1312 mothers in the study while they were still pregnant, then measured the verbal and non-verbal intelligence in the children until they were 7 years old.
The study concluded that the children who had been breastfed tested significantly more intelligent at 3 and 7 years than the children who were formula fed. And the longer the children were breastfed, the better they scored on testing.
The researchers (from Boston Children’s Hospital) estimated that a child breastfed for the first year would have a 4-point higher IQ than a formula-fed child. This current study is consistent with an earlier study measuring breastfeeding and IQ from New Zealand, published in 2007, and in that report, the researchers found that the IQ advantage for a breast-fed child was up to 7 points.
Of course there are huge profits to be made by milk and formula manufacturers—who emphasize the convenience of formula feeding—but there is nothing better for a baby than what Mother Nature made available. A mother’s milk is full of substances that manufactured formula will never match.
It has the perfect balance of nutrients that the baby needs (including the right balance of fats needed for brain growth, probably one reason breastfed babies are smarter). It is full of natural antibodies and enzymes to protect the baby against infections (breast milk strengthens the baby’s immune system).
Here are just a few of the many ways in which why breast fed children are healthier (besides the strong psychological benefits of nurturing a close bond between mother and child):
*72% reduced hospitalization for lung infections
*up to 63% fewer colds, throat and ear infections
*40% reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome
*27-42% decreased risk of asthma and eczema
*15-20% decreased risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma
And some of the benefits to the mother who breastfeeds: lower risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer; reduced risk of osteoporosis; and faster return to pre-pregnancy weight.
For the baby and the mother to receive these benefits, as recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should be the exclusive food for the baby’s first 6 months, and then as solid foods are introduced, breastfeeding can be continued for up to two years.
Talk to your doctor for his recommendations, but now during World Breastfeeding Week, it’s good we are up-to-date about breastfeeding. It leads to healthier kids and mothers, and the children seem to end up smarter too. And that is good for all of us.
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