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Lifelong Effects of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding a child gives him/her a healthy start in life, thus a foundation is laid in the child’s life for a future that will be both prosperous and healthy. Not only does a child benefit from breastfeeding, but the mother also benefits.

  • Published on: 04 Mar 2021
  • 5 min read
Lifelong Effects of Breastfeeding

The purpose of breastfeeding is not limited to only providing food to a child but is vital to ensure that he/she develops to his/ her full potential. Breastfeeding a child from birth up to his/her second birthday gives the child a healthy start in life. Thus a foundation is laid in the child’s life for a future that will be both prosperous and healthy.

Not only does a child benefit from breastfeeding, but the mother also benefits. Thus the whole country benefits by having a strong and healthy young population. Everyone wins if breastfeeding has support and encouragement from doctors and the government.

It has been noticed that a general interest has increased in people studying the long-term advantages of breastfeeding on the health of the mother and child over the last decade.

Positive breastfeeding effects on the child in the long-run

healthy child playing

It has become evident that infant benefits in the long run from breastfeeding. The important benefits are:

Higher IQ levels in breastfed children

It has been observed that infants who were given only breast milk over a long period of time showed higher levels of IQ. Breastfed kids did better than formula-fed kids in IQ tests, and the longer and exclusively they had been breastfed the results in IQ tests were even better. A study in 7-year-old children shows if their mothers had done some breastfeeding in the first year, their verbal IQ would have been higher than those who had never been breastfed. In the case of non-verbal IQ, the breastfed children showed better results than those who had never been breastfed. However, the difference may be less significant when compared to verbal IQ.

Researchers who have been studying the development of children’s brains through imaging have come to an astonishing conclusion. They claim that children who have been exclusively breastfed as infants have the advantage of better-developed brains. This advantage is not short-lived but stays with them throughout their life.

Researchers have studied nearly 6,000 babies from birth to adulthood in the past thirty years, and this has enabled them to understand how breastfeeding affects children in their adult life. Out of 6000, 3500 thirty-year adults were interviewed and gave IQ tests. Those adults whose mothers had breastfed them had stayed in school longer and were earning better than those adults who were not breastfed. The longer the period their mothers breastfed them, the better in life they were doing. This result is not limited to a particular economic and social group. High achievers who were 30 years old were not necessarily from well-to-do families1.

Improved cognitive development

Studies are being undertaken consistently to establish a correlation between breastfeeding and the cognitive development of a child.

Researchers are not very clear about the relationship between increased cognition and breast milk in children. This is because nutrients that they are aware of as beneficial for children are also present in the formula. But it could be possible that there might be some other nutrients that have not been studied yet that could be responsible for this important effect. There has been a study that oligosaccharides that are found in breast milk and not in formula might be beneficial for a baby’s brain development and health2. This is a very important observation.

Protection of children against diseases

Breastfeeding can protect children from many diseases later in life. They develop protection against diseases that are immune-related. These include Inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac disease, and type 1 diabetes. Also, children are protected against developing cancers in their childhood2.

There is yet no conclusive study about the direct relation between breastfeeding and protection from allergic diseases. Although there is evidence that breastfeeding does help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in control, though the evidence is small that breastfeeding protects children from obesity later in life.

Benefits to the mother in the long run

healthy mom with children

Prevention of certain diseases

Women who have breastfed are benefitted in the long run as they seem to be protected to a large extent from breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer. They are also rewarded with higher bone density and lower chances of suffering from osteoporosis later. Breastfeeding benefit women by bringing physical changes in their body that has a direct effect on the health of a mother. The risk of developing ovarian, breast, and endometrial cancers in the premenopausal period is significantly reduced. The risk of developing ovarian, breast, and endometrial cancers in the premenopausal period is significantly reduced. Some of these health benefits are short-term and others long-term3.

Weight management

Initially, breastfeeding helps the uterus to return to the original state of pre-pregnancy due to oxytocin produced in the body. Women are able to go back to their pre-pregnancy weight more easily if they are breastfeeding as compared to women who do not breastfeed. A number of studies on intensity and period of breastfeeding have shown that there is a direct correlation between breastfeeding and weight loss. But this does not in any way indicate that breastfeeding will prevent obesity.

Improved metabolism

Breastfeeding affects the metabolism of lipids and glucose in the body. How these changes affect our body in the long term is unknown but may have the effect of preventing later development of heart disease and diabetes.

Planning of future pregnancies

Breastfeeding has the advantage of delaying ovulation and reduce fertility to a large extent, preventing unwanted pregnancies and complications post abortions.

Better bone health

There is a decline in bone mineralization during lactation, but after weaning, repletion occurs. Breastfeeding does not deplete the bones but may protect you from osteoporosis in the long run.

To conclude, studies on breastfeeding have clearly shown that there may be challenges to the benefits of breastfeeding to mother and child in the short term. However, there is no denying the long-term benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and child. Not only the positive effects are significant at the individual level but also quite beneficial for the entire population. Healthy individuals with good IQ levels are an asset to a country at all levels.

Sources

1. www.theguardian.com

2. link.springer.com/

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ 

 


Avery K.

Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Avery K.

When she isn’t looking after the many needs of her 2 kids, Avery enjoys taking walks in the park, enjoying nature, and getting her daily fix of caffeine.

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