Saturday, October 10, 2009

What really ARE the benefits of breastmilk

Here is an exhaustive list of the benefits to baby and mother of breastfeeding

In infants : decrease in the incidents of

Exclusive breastfeeding for 4 months or more may offer protection against 
  •   Allergic diseases, including eczema and asthma
  • Cancer in the form of childhood lymphoma
  • Chronic digestive diseases
  • Crohn's disease 
  • Childhood -onset insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus
  • Sudden infant death syndrome ( SIDS,wiegedood)
  • Colic

Studies point to certain advantages of breastfed infants
  • Cognitive development and visual acuity
  • Improved immunization responses
  • Improved immune system development
  • Improved bioavailability of nutrients due to improved transporting of microminerals, catalyzing reactions, and synthesizing nutrients
  • Increased social development in terms of security, assertiveness, and maturation 

Health benefits for the mother
  • Rapid uterine involution (uterus returning faster to its pre-pregnancy size)
  • Less postpartum bleeding
  • Increased levels of oxytocin ( the bonding hormone, also the hormone that controls the let-down reflex)
  • More lactation amenorrhea with less blood loss in the post delivery months
  • Reduced employee absenteeism for ill-child care
  •  Reduced food cost for the child after accounting for increased intake for the mother (especially if the infant has a particular food allergy, in which case, costly specific formula will have to be bought)
  • Not only return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster, but when in a sound exercise and nutrition program, lose weight disproportionately from their hips and thighs if they are exclusively breastfeeding.
  • Improves in their bone remineralization in the postpartum period which later reduced hip fractures in the postmenopausal years.
  • Reduced rates of ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer
  • Delay in ovulation with increased child spacing across populations

"look at the downfall of breastfeeding and look at the population's general health... I can't help but think they're connected" 

Van Esterik (1998) asserts that
  • Breastfeeding challenges the media model of women as consumers and shows them to be unique producers of a valuable product
  • Breastfeeding encourages solidarity and cooperation because its proponents have to organize, actively campaign on its behalf, and challenge the medical and business interests that promote bottle feeding
  • Breastfeeding requires better integration of women's productive and reproductive work
  • Breastfeeding requires that societies change so that women's needs for food and support are asserted

Benefits of Breastfeeding to the enviroment
  • Breast milk production produces no waste because mothers need only a small amount of extra energy. In contrast, manufactured milks use plastic, glass, rubber, silicon, tin, paper, manufacturing and transportation energy
  • Cows produce 100 million tons of methane yearly, 20% of total methane emissions. and methane is the second most important gas contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming

Components failed and impossible to be included in formula milk
  • sIgA -This immunoglobulin coats the intestinal mucosa and protects the infant from a variety of infections by neutralizing viruses, bacteria or their toxins. Infants do not begin to create their own sIgA until they are 3 to 4 weeks old : thus breast milk is their only source. Infants only slowly increase their own production of sIgA over the early months. sIgA is especially important for children in day care. Breastfed infants whose mothers had higher levels of sIgA were shown to become infected with Giardia lamblia one fourth as often as infants whose milk titers were lower. Further, as mothers became infected with G. lamblia themselves, the titer is sIgA in their milk increased significantly. Thus, breast milk responds to the presence of infections.
  • Lactoferrin that binds iron and makes it unavailable for Escherichia coli- thus E. coli cannot flourish and the normal flora (lactobacillus bifidus) can thrive.
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids - these enhance neurologic and eye development and th laying down of myelin sheath
  • Anti-inflammatory agents that lower the manifestations of infections contracted
  • Oxytocin - oxytocin is a neuropeptide with potent behavioral effects. There is evidence that it attenuates learning and memory processes, alters the efficacy of addictive drugs, and is implicated in the onset of maternal behavior as well as milk ejection

Many people, health providers and lay people, and some women who have not breastfed their children, tend to down play these benefits. I always here the same old  "I was given formula, and look, I'm still alive and well". That is true, you are alive.. but when we look at these diseases and health plagues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many cancers, obesity and so on and so on, one cannot help but wonder.. formula did keep people alive.. but to what extent? Our lives are not plagued by these conditions on such an enormous scale because we were breastfed.. but I believe because we were formula fed. I'm not saying that all those 1960s babies that were breastfed have no ailments... but look at the downfall of breastfeeding and look at the population's general health... I can't help but think they're connected

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