Dec 12, 2018 in Health

Benefits of Breastfeeding Essay

Today, there is much scrutiny regarding breastfeeding as opposed to using formula-feeding on infants. Breastfeeding is a way of providing the ideal nutrients for the development of babies. Breast milk is perfect for healthy growth as it plays an integral part of the mother’s reproductive process. Health organizations that include the WHO support breastfeeding. Studies on breastfeeding infants reveal that it is beneficial to babies as it offers optimal feeding. Thereafter, children can receive complimentary food in addition to continued breastfeeding until they reach two years and beyond. Breastfeeding  is also economical as it decreases the medical conditions that result from not doing so. Individuals and companies benefit from breastfeeding mothers, as it lowers medical costs and absenteeism from work. In general, breastfeeding increases employee productivity. The paper will focus on potential benefits of breastfeeding for the mother and the infant.

God made breast milk specifically for human babies. Human milk contains the nutrients that are naturally available to infants. Therefore, breastfeeding has immediate as well as long benefits to the kid.  Human milk contains a balance of macro- and micronutrients in proper proportions that enhance absorption. The most important aspect of breast milk is that it does not contain any preservatives. All the nutrients are available in the breast milk. When the babies are exclusively breastfed, they receive the optimal amount of the nutrients needed for their growth and development. What is more important, it increases the bonding between the mother and the baby. Breastfeeding has numerous positive effects on the mother and the child. The duration of breastfeeding increases the benefits that both the mother and the infant receive (Belfield & Kelly, 2012).  Mothers should breastfeed for longer periods to ensure their babies get the necessary lasting protection from illnesses. Breast milk has a component known as colostrum that is very nutritious. Colostrum is the first fluid that is secreted from the breast after delivery. It is rich in proteins, vitamins, and enzymes that are vital for growth. It also contains non-pathogenic bacteria and antibodies that protect the child against infections.

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding for Infants

Breast milk has unique properties, prompting governments and other organizations to advocate breastfeeding. Human milk is nutritionally complete as it contains complex living substances needed by the infants for the first six months of their life. The milk is a proactive fluid that has changed concentrations of nutrients and physical properties. The concentrations are effective in providing protection for the infant against infections. Epidemiological studies reveal fewer incidences of lymphoma, diabetes, and Crohn disease in exclusively breastfed infants for four months after birth (Belfield & Kelly, 2012).   Therefore, breast milk is a weapon that humanity ought to use to enhance an immature immunologic system of the infants.  It is the most valuable element that strengthens the baby’s defense mechanisms and prevents infection and foreign agents. Breast milk meets all the nutritional needs of the baby. What is more, it enhances the growth of the infant’s brain as well as the body.

Breastfeeding is the most natural and healthy to feed the baby. Breastfeeding reduces chances of diarrhea as well as vomiting. It occurs mostly in the countries with high rate of infant illness and death. These countries experience poor sanitation and do not have adequate clean water supplies. However, even in developed countries with proper amenities, it is evident that breastfeeding  is linked to reduced infant illnesses. Babies have fewer chances of chest infections. Breastfeeding exclusively for four months reduces the chances of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases. Breastfeeding lessens allergy and wheezing. As per case-control studies in the developed countries for mortality studies on hospitalized children, breastfeeding was found to have a protective effect on these infections. At two years of age, children have a high risk of developing allergic reactions, such as asthma and eczema (Belfield & Kelly, 2012).  

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Researchers claim that breastfeeding is effective as it reduces 19 % of ear infections. Breastfed children do not get prolonged infections when compared to formula-fed babies. In fact, they have 80 % lower chance. In addition to reducing illnesses, breastfeeding also protects kids against the childhood diseases. These diseases include inflammatory bowel disease, leukemia, and celiac disease.  Children with a history of getting breast milk have a less risk of asthma and atopic dermatitis. Breastfeeding for three months exclusively reduces the risk of atopic dermatitis in babies with a history of the illness. Breast milk enhances the development of leukocytes, antibodies, and antimicrobial factors that prevent common infections from attacking the baby. The reported incidents of children with otitis media are more in formula-fed children than in breast-fed infants. The reason is the process of suckling the breast. Feeding bottles does not close, causing regurgitation in the tube.  The bottles amplify the risk of otitis media (Belfield & Kelly, 2012). Additionally, breast milk has protective constituents.

Breastfeeding reduces overweight in children. Children who receive breast milk exclusively for six months have a lesser chance of being obese. Physicians claim that these children are leaner; thus, most of them have a reduced risk for eczema and obesity. The reduction of child obesity is approximately 4 percent for every month the child receives breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding has positive effects on the psychological and cognitive factors in infants. The Intelligence quotient becomes better when infants are breastfed for the long duration.  Besides, it is known to increase the IQ in young adults. The nutrients in breast milk increase the cognitive ability of the child, especially when the baby is at different family environments. A research was conducted to check the IQ of breastfed infants, formula-fed infants, those receiving soya-based milk, and those receiving cow milk. All the groups managed to score in the normal ranges. However, breastfed babies were found to score slightly higher than the others. For infants of small gestational age, the ones breastfed mature faster than the ones formula-fed. The breastfed babies also have a higher intelligence quotient than others. The difference in growth is notable at 18 months and eight years. Optimal neurological outcomes and general movement of the infant at three months is more advanced for breastfed babies  than for formula-fed ones (Godfrey & Lawrence, 2010).

The fatty acid in the breast milk plays a vital role in the development of neuropsychology. Breastfeeding works as an analgesic to babies. Breastfeeding when receiving venipuncture reduces pain in infants. Therefore, breastfeeding can be used to reduce pain and discomfort during minor procedures. The chances of babies constipating are few. Breastfeeding for any period reduces the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SID).  However, the effect is better when the baby receives exclusive breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also reduces tooth decay in children. Human milk comprises of infection-fighting components that help to inhibit dental caries. Breastfed babies also have straighter teeth as they develop a well-rounded dental arch (Belfield & Kelly, 2012). 

The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) together with taurine and cholesterol in the breast milk are ideal for the development of the human brain in their first year of life. Baby formula lacks the DHA and taurine. Additionally, the formula is cholesterol-free.  In short, the formulas require the three essential elements that are readily available in breast milk for an infant’s development. Although the infant formulas are additives added to the bovine, they are chemically extracted and more subjected to extensive heat. Comparing breast milk with formula, the biochemical percentages of nutrients differ. The formulas fail to reflect the efficient utilization of bioavailability constituents of breast milk. Maximum bioavailability of nutrients helps in the digestions and absorption of the micronutrients (R. A., Lawrence & R. M. Lawrence, 2010). Nourishment is also evident with breast milk as the baby gets a combination of different nutrients at intervals. Using isolated nutrients of the formula does not guarantee the child the needed constituents of human milk.

Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother

The act of breastfeeding is God-made. Therefore, the breastfeeding mother performs an obligation from God. The act of nourishing the child empowers the mother. The two continue to bond when breastfeeding. Holding the infant to breastfeed nurtures a psychological experience that triggers parenting behavior. Most breastfeeding women, according to a study done in Kentucky, showed that they were more assertive and had high self-esteem than the ones feeding their babies on formulas. Breastfeeding women are more established, easy-going, and interactive than the non-breast feeding ones. It promotes quicker recovery of the mother from the childbirth. Breastfeeding also delays the return of menstruation as well as fertility of the mother. Most importantly, breastfeeding significantly reduces the potential risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer. Numerous studies show the protective effect of breastfeeding on the cancer. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced chance of 4.3 percent of getting pre-menopausal breast cancer. Breastfeeding stimulates oxytocin hormone that facilitates uterine contractions, thus, minimizing the danger of hemorrhage (Godfrey & Lawrence, 2010).

Breastfeeding acts as a family-planning remedy as it is a contributing factor to infertility after birth. It thus leads to spacing between pregnancies. Specifically, the duration and also the regularity of breastfeeding determines the extent of suppressed fertility and the period of maternal recovery. Additional possible health benefits to mothers include a reduced risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding accelerates mother’s weight loss, helping in the return of pre-pregnancy weight. Mothers experience improvements in bone mineralization that decreases chances of getting osteoporosis. Breastfeeding also protects against type 2 diabetes and emerging of rheumatoid arthritis (R. A., Lawrence & R. M. Lawrence, 2010).

There are also emotional benefits of breastfeeding for the mother and the infant. Breastfeeding generates closeness between the mom and the child. The skin-to-skin interaction of the two is more pleasurable, resulting in the bonding of the mother and the child. When mothers are breastfeeding, the body releases two hormones known as prolactin and oxytocin. The hormones help in the reduction of maternal stress. They nurture emotional bonding of the mother and the child (Godfrey & Lawrence, 2010). Breast milk is unique in nature. It is interactive and very dynamic as its composition differs between individuals due to the diet of the mother and the period of lactation. The biochemistry of human milk changes with time, meaning the composition is not the same from morning to evening.

The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding

The most significant economic benefit of breastfeeding is that it reduces the cost of medical care. Breastfeeding is found to reduce otitis media, gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis and other illness. A research for breastfeeding mothers, done in Louisiana by two companies, gave positive economic results. The savings were approximately $216 whereby more than 18 lives were saved. Lactation programs in companies reduce maternal absenteeism due to the infant illness. Organizations can use lactations programs to lower medical costs and increase employee productivity. Breastfeeding is the best economic option than the use of formula feeds. Formula costs approximately $3000 a year – an amount that does not include feeding accessories. It is cheaper for mothers to express breast milk using a breast pump than to buy baby formula. The center for disease control has evidence showing an increase in the percentage of breastfed babies since 2006 (R. A., Lawrence & R. M. Lawrence, 2010). These statistics are essential to retailers on chain drugs as they recognize breastfeeding women are buying breastfeeding accessories.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the paper examines the health and economic benefits of breastfeeding. Breast is natural, thus, it does not have any additives, preservative, or harmful chemicals. God made the milk in the most natural biological manner. Evidently, breastfeeding exclusively for 3, 4, and 6 months results in better health outcomes for the infants and mothers. Mothers cannot sufficiently substitute breast milk with baby formula as it contains unique nutrients and elements. Baby breast milk protects against infections, thus reducing later health problems. As for mothers, breastfeeding helps in quick recovery from childbirth as it facilitates the contraction of the uterus. Additionally, breastfeeding reduces the chances of getting ovarian and breast cancer. It also provides a natural way for the mothers and babies to bond. Breastfeeding has economic benefits as the mothers have increased productivity in the workplace. Notably, there is no other feed for infants better than breast milk.

Annotated Bibliography

Belfield, C. R., & Kelly, I. R. (2012). The benefits of breast feeding across the early years of childhood. Journal of Human Capital, 6 (3), 251-277.

Belfield and Kelly in the study investigate whether the benefits of breastfeeding are real. The two researchers used several measures in their analysis that include breast fed ever, the period of breastfeeding, and formula-fed infants. Specifically, the authors examine a broad range of child developmental outcomes that were measured at different levels of growth. The study uses Longitudinal Survey on Early Childhood-Birth Cohort to explore the causal effects of breastfeeding.  The authors used models, equations, and measures to examine the factors that relate to breastfeeding and formula feeding. Using physical, health, and cognitive outcomes, the results show that breastfeeding is more protective against obesity and other health conditions. The research included detailed information on family characteristics, situations surrounding birth and the development of the child.

Lawrence, R. A., & Lawrence, R. M. (2010). Breastfeeding: A guide for the medical professional (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.

Dr. Ruth Lawrence, the author of the book, is a pioneer on human lactation. The book provides a comprehensive outlook on the basic science and practical applications on breastfeeding. The authors cover issues related to lactation, such as infectious diseases. The book provides insightful guidance to breastfeeding mothers by use of the evidence-based experiences and data.  Dr. Lawrence uses Australian research to give facts on health and economic benefits of breastfeeding. The Australian physiology, anatomy of different women results from factual evidence that show breastfeeding is beneficial to both the mother and the child. What is more, the author presents countless benefits of breastfeeding to mothers and children.

Godfrey, J. R., & Lawrence, R. A. (2010). Toward optimal health: The maternal benefits of breastfeeding. Journal of Women's Health, 19 (9), 1597-1602.

Godfrey interviews Dr. Ruth Lawrence, who is a professor of pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology, to get the facts on breastfeeding.  Dr. Lawrence provides the facts as presented in her book describing the benefits of breastfeeding.  According to her, the new proof that compels justification on maternal health is the evidence that reduces incidences of breast cancer in breastfeeding women. In addition to a reduction in the cardiovascular diseases, breast milk is an essential therapeutic fluid for infants. Studies in the journal show breastfeeding to be referred to other infant feeding models regarding health outcomes, growth, and development.  The report shows a systematic review where researchers examine the relationship between breastfeeding and infections in early childhood.

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