Breast is best
‘Breast is best’ as the saying goes. But it’s only as good as the raw materials used to make it. Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby’s needs for development and growth in the first four to six months and research suggests that the longer you breast feed, the better it is for both your health and that of your baby. Ideally your baby should be exclusively breast fed for the first four to six months, and then breast milk should supplement solids until your baby is about a year old, if your lifestyle allows this.
So what are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Antibodies found in breast milk protect your baby against infection by boosting their immune system. Colostrum is particularly rich in antibodies, which protect your baby for the first few days of its life. Research has shown that babies breastfed exclusively for 6 months are less likely to develop pneumonia, colds and ear infections. They are also much less likely to suffer with allergies later in life.
Bifidobacteria are present in breast milk. These friendly bacteria enable your baby to build up healthy gut flora, which will protect baby from an overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria, and boost her immune system. Also giving baby a better chance of avoiding eczema and allergies, such as hay fever.
Breast milk contains high levels of the essential fat DHA which is needed for brain development and could explain why children who were breast fed have IQ scores than their bottle-fed counterparts.
Minerals and vitamins
Breast milk contains more minerals and in more absorbable forms than formula milk, for example calcium, manganese, zinc, selenium and iron in breast milk are more readily absorbed. Breast milk contains high levels of fat-soluble vitamins, in particular vitamin D which is essential for bone development and the immune system.
Breast feeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates the uterus to regain its pre-pregnancy shape.
AUTHOR: EMILY FAWELL
NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST, LONDON
Emily Fawell is a nutritional therapist and NLP practitioner at 4Well People. Emily offers one to one consultations in a family friendly clinic in West Ealing, London.