So everyone tells you that breastfeeding is great and you should breastfeed, but what are the actual medical benefits of doing such? We believe it's really important that mothers are fully informed on their decision to embark on the breastfeeding journey because it really is so impactful! It certainly is not always easy, but maybe understanding that the benefits reach far beyond the now, and make a difference in years and even decades to come, will hopefully make the journey more understandable.
Kelly Mom is a great resource for breastfeeding information, so we've collated some of their key research regarding the medical benefits of breastfeeding below. It's also interesting to note that there are currently studies researching the role of breastfeeding in the treatment of Covid-19 - but we already knew we were superhuman..
Predominant breastfeeding for 6 months or longer was positively associated with academic achievement in children at 10 years of age. However, the effectiveness of breastfeeding differed according to gender; the benefits were only evident for boys.
During the 2-year follow-up, 113 of the 1,010 women without diabetes at the study baseline (11.8%) developed type 2 diabetes. After accounting for differences in age, pre-pregnancy body size, and other risk factors, the researchers estimated that women who exclusively breastfed or mostly breastfed were about half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who didn’t breastfeed.
The probability of respiratory illness occurring at any time during childhood is significantly reduced if the child is fed exclusively breast milk for 15 weeks and no solid foods are introduced during this time. Breast feeding and the late introduction of solids may have a beneficial effect on childhood health and subsequent adult disease.
Researchers monitored the bone densities of 76 new mothers over a period of two years after delivery. Half breast-fed their infants; the others chose to formula-feed. Bone densities were measured at regular intervals using a sensitive bone scan called DEXA. In addition to regaining lost bone, mothers who had breast-fed for nine months or less were found to have nearly three percent more bone than right after delivery. Mothers who breast- fed longer—between 10 and 24 months—were also gaining more bone, but at a slower rate.
Out of these 201 women, 120 intended to feed their infant their own milk without supplementation for two months or more. Among this group, 24% experienced a relapse in the six months after their child was born. That proportion is significantly lower than the 38% of women who relapsed among those who either did not breastfeed at all or breastfed with supplementation. The authors considered these effects large enough to conclude that “exclusive breastfeeding acts like a MS treatment with a natural end date.”
There are actually far more benefits not included, please take a look at KellyMom to read more. You will note that with some of these studies, just a little bit of breastfeeding is better than nothing - so be encouraged to make a start, take it one day at a time and see how you and baby get on!