Breastfeeding Affects Long-Term Health of Mother and Child

August 22, 2016 | Wellness Resources

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Breastfeeding Affects Long-Term Health of Mother and Child
How important is it really to breastfeed your child? Just consider the fact that babies have been successfully raised on breast milk since the beginning of mankind. It then must follow that breast milk is a perfect food in every way, providing a child with all the necessary nutrients for proper development. Current research confirms this reasoning, and supports the resounding answer that it is extremely important to breastfeed your baby!

No baby formula can begin to approximate the benefits from breast milk or the activity of nursing. Perhaps the most vital component relayed to baby is the first milk colostrum. This first-milk colostrum contains a high amount of the hormone leptin which is required to finalize appetite signal wiring in the subconscious brain circuitry. A failure to get this nutrition can easily predispose your child to later life obesity and consequent heart disease. Colostrum also contains significant amounts of biologically active thyroid hormone (T3) which is necessary for fueling the high metabolic demands of the first two weeks of life. Additionally, colostrum contains a broad array of natural immune support compounds needed by your baby who does not yet have a high-powered and experienced immune system.

One of the most important tasks for any newborn baby is to develop a properly functioning digestive system. A key component is to cultivate well balanced digestive flora. One study demonstrates that breastfeeding is far superior to bottle feeding in facilitating proper bacterial development in the digestive tract. In fact, failure to breastfeed can actually lead to imbalanced bacterial populations that encourage highly inflammatory digestive problems and consequent development of Celiac disease in those babies that are genetically predisposed.

A mother’s bacterial balance is passed on to her child as a baseline of digestive health. This means that taking a high quality acidophilus supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding helps pass along a better bacterial starting point for your child.

Perhaps the most recent benefit of breastfeeding has to do with the new era of anti-aging and telomere length. A telomere is a repeating sequence of DNA at the end of a chromosome. Each time a cell replicates and divides, the telomere loses some of its length. Eventually the telomere runs out, and the cell can no longer divide and rejuvenate, triggering a poor state of cell health that contributes to disease risk and eventual cell death. Preserving your telomeres is an exceptionally important principle of health as telomere length and fitness directly correlates with a longer lifespan and better quality of health with age.

A recent study evaluated the relation between early life feeding variables and preschool telomere length. As noted previously, telomere length is a marker of cellular aging, with the majority of lifetime wear and tear occurring during the first 4 years of life. In the study, the relation between dietary, feeding and weight associated risk factors were measured from birth and telomere length from blood samples were taken at 4 and 5 years of age in a group of Latino children. Overall, the research concluded that exclusive breastfeeding at 4-6 weeks of age may have positive long-term effects on childhood health as evidenced by longer telomere length at 4 and 5 years of age.

Telomere length is greatly influenced by nutritional status, which supports the importance of providing superior nourishment through breastfeeding. Well-nourished mothers help establish optimal telomere length and quality in their children. The most important basic supplement for telomere support is a high quality multiple vitamin, along with adequate dietary protein.

Amazingly, baby is not the only benefactor when it comes to breastfeeding. The act of breastfeeding is healthy for mom as well! The activity of nursing is proven to offer the mother significantly improved stress tolerance, better mood, and natural fat burning. Beneficial relaxing anti-inflammatory compounds, including endorphins and oxytocin, initially released during labor and delivery are reinforced by the physical stimulation of nursing and bonding. These are vital to the healing process in the first few weeks following delivery as well as managing stress levels. Additional studies have also found that breastfeeding reduces a mother’s chance for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Overall, good nutrition is key in supporting both mom and baby throughout the breastfeeding period. The nutrient most required for the production of milk is high quality protein, with B vitamins coming in second. Women who are struggling to get started may need high amounts of these nutrients to get the system kick started, often at higher ranges for the first two or three days following delivery. Once in motion, protein levels and B vitamins can be set at an amount that noticeably supports adequate milk production. Additionally, supplementing with high quality DHA while breastfeeding has been shown to support proper brain and neurological development in children.

The research is in. Breastfeeding not only benefits mom and child in the early stages of life, but also provides many positive, long term advantages. So go ahead and make the decision to breastfeed. In doing so, you will be giving your baby the optimal opportunity they need to not only survive, but thrive in life!

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