In addition to serving as food, breast milk also protects your baby. Breast milk is packed with living ingredients, including stem cells, white blood cells, and beneficial bacteria, as well as other bioactive components, such as antibodies, enzymes, and hormones, that help fight infection, prevent disease, and support normal, healthy development.
Babies who only breastfeed for the first six months of life are less likely to suffer from diarrhea and nausea, gastroenteritis, colds and flu, ear and chest infections, and yeast infections. Compared to formula-fed infants, breastfed babies are half as likely to have Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death).
Of course, breastfed babies also get sick sometimes, but breastfeeding during the baby’s illness offers even more benefits: “If a baby becomes ill, or if its mother becomes ill, the protective components of her milk will tend to increase.” explains Professor Peter Hartmann of the University of Western Australia, an internationally recognized breastfeeding expert. “A breastfed baby is likely to recover faster than a formula-fed baby, as the mother’s body will produce specific antibodies against any infection he may have.”
And it is not only important for nutrition and immune protection: when the baby is sick or upset, breastfeeding calms and relaxes him, which is an important benefit that should not be underestimated. In fact, some studies have shown that breastfeeding reduces crying and brings relief when babies get their shots.
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