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Why Choose Breastfeeding: The Benefits of Breastmilk

Breastmilk can be a practical solution for many parents. Breastfeeding benefits like taking advantage of the nutritional value, and the practical value of milk readily made, make breastmilk a strong choice for many young families.

  • Published on: 26 Jan 2021
  • 5 min read
Why Choose Breastfeeding: The Benefits of Breastmilk

Breastmilk can be a practical solution for many parents. Breastfeeding benefits like taking advantage of the nutritional value, and the practical value of milk readily made, make breastmilk a strong choice for many young families.

Like anything involving your child, it’s good to have a deeper understanding of how it all works. Let’s break down the nutritional value and psychological effects breastfeeding can have on your baby.

The Nutritional Value of Breastmilk

To break down the breastmilk benefits, we have to look at the nutritional value of breastmilk, like we would with any kind of nutrition for children.

breastmilk

There are many different types of protein, and in breastmilk, there are two: casein and whey. Whey makes up 60% of human milk’s protein value and casein the other 40%. The combination of the two balance each other out, making it easier for babies to properly digest. These two proteins contain more minute elements that aid good health and digestion.

For example, breastmilk contains lysozyme. This is an enzyme that promotes healthy intestinal flora, which can protect against many different ailments, like salmonella. Other examples include lactoferrin, which slows the growth of bacteria dependent on iron, and immunoglobulins like IgM and IgG which help protect against both viral and bacterial infections.

We don’t often think of fat as a necessary and positive thing for life, but in fact, fats are essential for our health. For development, long-chain fatty acids help a baby grow healthy and strong. Breastmilk has a healthy balance of fats that help with absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Fats also help with brain development, especially in the early years.

Human milk is rich in lactose, a healthy carbohydrate full of calories. Lactose works well to diminish unhealthy bacteria in the gut. While our bodies naturally absorb some calcium and magnesium, it’s another part of our diet that maximizes how well our bodies absorb these essential minerals. For newborns, lactose works to lessen the unhealthy bacteria while helping to align the absorption rate for calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

When it comes to vitamins in breastmilk, this is where your prenatal vitamins come into play. For your milk to be rich in vitamins, you’ll need some help in consuming healthy vitamins for yourself. You’ll want to talk to your nurse or other healthcare providers to help you choose the right prenatal vitamins for your needs, which will help your breastmilk become rich with vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and everything else necessary for healthy development.

breastfeeding nutrition

Another factor in breastfeeding benefits are leukocytes. When a baby is still in the womb, immune factors begin to transfer from the mother to the child. After birth, this continues in breastmilk. Leukocytes are living cells found in breastmilk that promote the development of a healthy immune system.

Ultimately, what makes the nutritional value of breastmilk beneficial and unique is the blend of all these elements together. Combined, they are easy for babies to properly digest and absorb, making them a healthy solution for nutritional needs.

We Don’t Yet Know Everything About Breastmilk

As much as we currently know and understand about the health of babies and breastmilk, there are a lot of things we have proof that we don’t fully understand yet.

What does that mean? There are many examples. Stem cells are a good one. We only recently discovered that stem cells are transferred from mother to baby during breastfeeding. We don’t know what that does for the health of the baby at this point, but we do know it’s happening.

We know that breastmilk affects the gut biome. We know that means healthier immune systems and better digestion, but we don’t know everything this might mean for a baby later in life yet.

We know that breastfeeding has been tied to lower risks of asthma and allergies. We know that babies who drink breastmilk have fewer ear infections and cases of diarrhea. We know that breastmilk has antibodies that fight off viruses and bacteria. We don't always know all the reasons why these things have been shown in studies, only that those are the linked results. Science is still catching up with nutrition, breastfeeding, and how healthy babies develop.

Psychological Breastfeeding Benefits For Mother and Baby

The nutritional breastmilk benefits aren’t things most parents are likely to notice.

While you may see a healthy child who doesn’t have a lot of trouble with ear infections, there’s no way for you to know that has anything to do with breastmilk, except that studies have shown that’s a likely result.

What most parents do notice is the psychological benefits for mother and baby. Most often, we talk about this in terms of the emotional bond.

For a newborn, life outside of the womb is a lot to absorb and get used to. Open-air, new sounds, new tastes, and new everything. Breastfeeding is a comforting part of their day, where they hear the familiar sounds of a heartbeat and become used to staring into their parent’s faces.

mother's love

For mothers, these moments of closeness can help balance out the many changes they are also experiencing during these times. Some parents get a look in their eyes where you know it’s difficult for them to describe when talking about it, but some say the breastfeeding benefits extend to turning mother and child into “mutual caregivers” as both receive benefits.

Surprisingly, studies indicate psychological benefits later in life. Some of these benefits are linked to cognitive development. Babies who drank breastmilk showed signs of improved intelligence, language skills, and memory retention later in life.

The Benefits of Breastmilk Are More Than We Know

We currently know so many breastmilk benefits. The nutritional value of human milk is rich with opportunities for healthy immune systems and development.

At the same time, there is so much we are still learning about why the cells found in breastmilk have such a positive impact on babies both early in life and later on. While we have studies showing positive results, there is still so much more to learn about why breastmilk is such a powerful force for both mother and child.

 


Lindsay Hudson

Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Lindsay Hudson

Lindsay is a freelance writer who is mom to a lovely daughter. She loves dressing in matching outfits with her daughter and bringing their 2 dogs out for their daily walk.

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