Breast Milk - Benefits

Benefits

The baby nursing from its own mother is the most common way of obtaining breast milk, but the milk can be pumped and then fed by baby bottle, cup and/or spoon, supplementation drip system, and nasogastric tube. Breast milk can be supplied by a woman other than the baby's mother; either via donated pumped milk (for example from a milk bank), or when a woman nurses a child other than her own at her breast — an ancient and storied practice known as wetnursing.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with solids gradually being introduced around this age when signs of readiness are shown. Supplemented breastfeeding is recommended until at least age two and then for as long as the mother and child wish. Breastfeeding offers health benefits to mother and child even after toddlerhood. These benefits include a somewhat lowered risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), increased intelligence, decreased likelihood of contracting middle ear infections, cold and flu resistance, a tiny decrease in the risk of childhood leukemia, lower risk of childhood onset diabetes, decreased risk of asthma and eczema, decreased dental problems decreased risk of obesity later in life, decreased risk of autism, and a decreased risk of developing psychological disorders, particularly in adopted children. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child, or death from not being breastfed, when screened donor milk is not available.

Breastfeeding also provides health benefits for the mother. It assists the uterus in returning to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces post-partum bleeding, as well as assisting the mother in returning to her pre-pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer later in life.

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