What if breast milk could boost infant IQ levels? According to new data featured in the Project Vida study, researchers surveyed 1,312 mothers and children. As the results were tallied, researchers noticed a notable increase in picture-vocabulary tests and overall intelligence scores. These are wonderful findings, but many mothers are not initiating, nor do they sustain adequate levels of breastfeeding, which lead to long-term, chronic health effects for both baby and mom. In fact, by the time babies reach six months of age, only 35 percent of American women are still feeding. So, why is breastfeeding so important? What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
First off, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns. Superior to commercial infant-formula in every way imaginable, breast milk provides high-quality colostrum. This thin, yellowish fluid produced after the first few days of delivery contains vital amounts of protein, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), antibodies, and lymphocytes. Besides building healthy tissue, bone, and muscle, colustrum helps fight infection, stimulates appetite, and has amazing antitoxin properties. Also included in the milky mixture is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in the tissues of skin, retina, and cerebral systems.
As the milk matures in the later stages of feeding, the fat content increases as well. Cholesterol and saturated fats work together to ensure healthy brain development and overall gut integrity. Speaking of the gut, breast milk works more like a kind of cultured yogurt. Believe it or not, breast milk contains over 600 different types of beneficial bacteria, which lowers the risk of developing eczema, ear infections, dermatitis, obesity, asthma, allergies, and related bowel disorders.
Contrary to what many people think, breast milk is just as important for mother as babies. In moms, breastfeeding increases concentrations of oxytocin, a neurohypophysial hormone that acts as a positive feedback mechanism. After childbirth, oxytocin is released in large amounts. Studies have shown that oxytocin particularly helps with maternal bonding, anxiety, mood, and even reduces certain cancers. Breastfeeding has also been shown to help women return to pre-pregnancy weight, a concern most women harbor.
As you can see, breastfeeding is great for both sides of the coin. However, if you struggle for any reason whatsoever, whether it’s physical, emotional, or other – consult a lactation specialist. If all other breastfeeding options have been exhausted, try to avoid commercial infant formulas at all costs. Due to the lack of nutritional value and allergen exposure (soy), it’s best to make a homemade alternative. Your babies health will thank you for it.