Human milk is an intricate dynamic and biological fluid that evolves as your baby grows to meet their needs. It contains the precise quantities of nutrients, in the right proportions for your infant.
A study of 2,195 children up to six years concluded that less breastfeeding leads to the increase of asthma and atopy at a young age. The American Academy of Paediatrics reviewed the evidence in respect to the development of atopic dermatitis, asthma and food allergies in early life. They concluded that it is related to the diet of babies and mothers during pregnancy and the lactating period.
For infants at a high risk of developing atopic diseases, there is proof that only breastfeeding for at least four months, compared to feeding intact cow milk protein formula, cuts the collective incidence of dermatitis and allergy in the first two years. It has been proved that exclusive breastfeeding for at least three months protects a child against wheezing as well.
Nursing has been associated with improved neurodevelopment in children. A study in Spain established that a high percentage of feeding during the first 14 months is associated directly with a child’s mental development. Maternal education, social class, and IQ only partly explained this association. Additionally, the level of LCPUFA (essential fatty acids) seems to play a beneficial role in mental growth.
Breastfeeding has been found to generally reduce the risk of obesity. A number of studies concluded that every month of breastfeeding is found to be associated with a four per cent decrease in risk.
A study carried out in Greece found that infants who were exclusively breastfed for six months presented fewer infectious episodes than their partially breastfed or non-breastfed peers. Prolonged exclusive breastfeeding showed there were fewer admissions at hospitals for infection in the first year.
The mother’s health
Researchers found that exclusive or mostly breastfeeding groups had lower prevalence of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Authors argue that lactation may have favourable effects on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity that may reduce diabetes risk after gestational diabetes in pregnancy.
Women who had never breastfed were more likely to develop hypertension than those who exclusively breastfed their first child for more than six months.
The World Cancer Research Fund published the most comprehensive report on the link between cancer and diet, as well as physical activity and weight. One of the 10 recommendations is that women should aim to breastfeed their baby exclusively for six months, and then continue with complementary breastfeeding after that.
There is convincing evidence that breastfeeding protects women against pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. There is limited evidence that it safeguards them from ovarian cancer. Both short- and long-term breastfeeding reduce the risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML).
Colostrum is a yellow, sticky fluid which is secreted during the first three to five days postpartum. It contains over 60 components, 30 of which are exclusive to human milk. It offers the immunities that were available to your baby via the placenta.
Colostrum is high in protein, in addition to fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and minerals. Additionally, it contains high amounts of sodium, potassium, chloride and cholesterol thought to encourage optimal development of your baby’s heart, brain and central nervous system.
The yellow colour is due to B-carotene, one of the many antioxidants present. Its natural laxative benefit encourages the passage of meconium, which lessens the risk of jaundice in your baby.
This fluid is rich in immunoglobulins, which protect your infant from viruses and infections. It continues to be secreted in breast milk for up to two weeks postpartum.