Breastfeeding has gotten a lot of press lately — both good and bad. The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusive breastfeeding the first 6 months of life. And there are benefits to continuing breastfeeding through two years of age and beyond.
AAP offers these tips for breastfeeding beyond one year, including fielding the opinions of naysayers.
There are many reasons why breast milk is the best milk. Here are four we promote at Beaumont Hospital:
Your milk is rich in the nutrients that best promote brain growth and nervous system development. Research shows that breastfed babies perform better on different kinds of intelligence tests as they grow older. They also develop better eye function. This is due mostly to certain types of fat in human milk.
Breast milk is digested more easily and completely by the human baby. Your milk is the perfect first food to help your baby achieve every aspect of ideal growth and development.
AAP recommends that babies who are exclusively breastfed receive additional vitamin D. Your baby’s physician can recommend the proper type and amount of vitamin D supplement for your baby.
2. Anti-infective properties
Only human milk is alive with many different kinds of disease-fighting factors that help prevent mild to severe infections. Babies who are breastfed, or receive expressed breast milk, have significantly fewer gastrointestinal, respiratory, ear, and urinary infections. The antibodies in human milk directly protect against infection. Human milk also appears to have properties that help a baby’s own immune system work best. If your baby does become ill when breastfeeding and receiving your milk, the infection is likely to be less severe.
3. Easily digested
Since nature designed human milk for human babies, your milk is the most easily digested food your baby can receive. A nutritious, yet easily digested first food is important for a baby’s immature digestive tract. Your baby uses less energy, yet breaks your milk down more completely into its basic ingredients, so the nutrients, anti-infective factors, and all the other ingredients in your milk are more available to fuel your baby’s body functions and to promote your baby’s growth and development.
Your milk is best suited to, and so it is more gentle on, your baby’s body systems. The suitability of your milk plays a role in your milk’s digestibility, and it allows your baby’s body to function most efficiently while spending a lot less energy on body functions. Suitability is also thought to be one reason that breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergic-related skin conditions and asthma.
The digestibility and suitability of your milk means that your baby’s body is able to work less yet receive more nourishment.
— Sarah Jo Sautter, Editor and Publisher