Many mothers choose breastfeeding because of the close bonding experience and the fact that it’s the most nutritious option for their baby. Commercial formulas, even the organic ones, simply can’t compare. Let’s take a look at 5 proven reasons why breastfeeding is just plain awesome.
1. Breastfeeding Provides the Best Nutrition
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests the best strategy for nutrition and health protection is “exclusive breastfeeding […] for the first 6 months of life” and “breastfeeding with complementary foods from six months until at least 12 months of age.”  Breastfeeding your child during the first few months of life could also influence the makeup of the gut microbiome—making the transition to solid foods easier. 
2. Breastfeeding Shapes the Immune System
But breastfeeding does more than just help your baby with that transition to solid food. A recent study suggests breastfeeding your baby could even influence a developing immune system by, once again, influencing the microbiome. This, in turn, could also lessen your child’s chances of developing allergies or asthma. 
3. Breastfeeding Promotes Healthy Gut Flora
Preventing allergies (and asthma) is just the tip of the iceberg. Many studies have already suggested children who are breastfed also have a “lower incidence of obesity […] diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease later in life.” (4) Because babies are born without gut bacteria, they need help developing a healthy microbiome.  Recent evidence suggests breastfeeding could help with that.
4. Breastfeeding Makes Kids Smarter and Richer
OK, that’s probably one bold statement, but it’s not quite far off. One study out of Brazil found babies who were breastfed actually had higher IQs, went to school longer, and made more money as adults.  But it’s more than just breastfeeding–the amount of time a child is breastfed could be very important as well: “for example, an infant […] breastfed for at least a year gained a full four IQ points, had 0.9 years more schooling […], and a higher income of 341 reais”—about 112 dollars—“per month at the age of 30 years, compared to those breastfed for less than one month.”
5. Breastfeeding Makes the Best Economic Sense
Let’s look past the immediate health benefits for a moment. When it comes to the economy, breastfeeding could save countries millions in future health costs—and those savings make a lot of sense.  A UK research team figured out that savings from “reducing the incidence of common childhood diseases and curbing the subsequent risk of breast cancer” in mothers “all of which have been linked to low rates of breastfeeding” could save the equivalent of close to 60 million dollars each year!
One Final Thought
Breastfeeding can be a rewarding experience for you as a mother, and your child’s health can only benefit. Make sure that you are getting enough nutrients during pregnancy and while lactating. In addition to a daily multi-vitamin, you also want to make sure that you are getting enough iodine: “the addition of 150 mcg of iodine in all prenatal vitamins will ensure that the developing brain of the baby during pregnancy and early infancy will have sufficient iodine to develop to its maximal potential.” 
Do you know of any other health benefits of breastfeeding? Tell us about them in the comments!
by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
- Lessen, R. & Kavanagh, K. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 115 (3).
- Thompson, A. L. Milk- and solid-feeding practices and daycare attendance are associated with differences in bacterial diversity, predominant communities, and metabolic and immune function of the infant gut microbiome. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology.
- Henry Ford Health System. Breastfeeding, other factors help shape immune system early in life. ScienceDaily.
- Bergström, A. et al. Establishment of Intestinal Microbiota during Early Life: a Longitudinal, Explorative Study of a Large Cohort of Danish Infants. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 80 (9).
- Victora, C. G. et al. Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil. The Lancet Global Health. 3 (4).
- Pokhrel, S. et al. Potential economic impacts from improving breastfeeding rates in the UK. Archives of Disease in Childhood.
- Public Health Committee of the American Thyroid Association. Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: recommendations of the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid. 16 (10).