Mother produces milk specifically suited for her baby. Breast
milk is a complex, living,
biological fluid which contains just the right amounts of nutrients, in the
right proportions. It is rich in immunoglobulins, enzymes, hormones, growth
factors, macrophages, etc. Babies learn to regulate temperature and maintain
stable breathing and heart rate while breastfeeding.
Lactose in human milk enhances calcium absorption and metabolizes into galactose and glucose, which supplies energy to infant’s rapidly growing brain. Human milk contains numerous long-chain fatty acids including DHA and ARA. These lipids are responsible for cell membrane integrity in the brain, retinas and other parts of the baby’s body. Breastmilk contains a lot of cholesterol. Cholesterol provides basic components for manufacturing nerve tissue in the growing brain. DHA, cholesterol and fat in breastmilk provide the right substances for manufacturing myelin, the sheath that surrounds nerve fibers.
presents clear short-term benefits for child health, mainly protection against
morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. Breastfed babies have a
decreased chance of developing respiratory and ear infections, allergies,
atopic diseases and Asthma. Secretory IgA, along with other immunoglobulins
protect the ears, nose and throat, as well as the GI tract against foreign
viruses and bacteria. There is reduced risk of Urinary tract infections,
diarrhea, gastrointestinal reflux and NEC attributed to breastfeeding.
studies have shown that children who are breastfed are less likely to be obese
during adolescence and longer periods of breastfeeding greatly reduce the risk
of being overweight in adulthood. Since breastfed babies learn to control how
much they eat they are leaner than formula fed/bottle fed infants. Overweight
children are more likely to become overweight adults.
Few studies have also
shown that adults who were formula-fed as infants tend to have higher blood
cholesterol and are more likely to have arterosclerotic plaques than those who
were breastfed. Breastfeeding during infancy may lower the risk of heart
attacks and strokes in later life. This
can be associated with the high level of cholesterol in breast milk because of
which breastfed babies learn to metabolize cholesterol better than formula fed
According to a study led by Eleanor Schwarz at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Medicine, babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus in later life. Breastfeeding aids in decreasing belly fat and hence reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that breastfeeding may also play a role in preventing digestive diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, as well as childhood cancers.
Breast milk is a unique food designed by the nature for optimal nourishment of babies and breastfeeding is the easiest and the most cost effective health investment for a healthier, stronger and brighter future of our country.
Rashmi Poduval (IBCLC)Lactation consultant, Pune