Breastfeeding provides many unique benefits, both short and long-term. Beyond bonding with your child, saving money, and convenience, breastfeeding has many other benefits that are not as well known.
From changing your child’s face shape to impacting the gut microbiome, choosing to breastfeed your baby has a significant impact on their life and health.
1. Oral Health
Compared to bottle-fed children, breastfed babies have better oral health. This is partially due to the chemical makeup of human milk, which helps to slow the growth of bacteria that leads to tooth decay and cavities. Better dental health means less early intervention from dental professionals.
2. Face and Mouth Development
Another positive component involves mouth and face development. Breastfed children have a unique suckle that is required when breastfeeding, while bottle-fed babies do not. This suckle helps to both widen and strengthen the palate. This results in less need for orthodontic intervention as the teeth do not become as squished.
Additionally, the continual consumption of formula, soft baby foods, and ultra-processed foods throughout the modern diet have continued to have a significant impact on facial development in our society at large. This has led to narrower and pushed-back jaws, a more sunken nose, and a longer face shape.
3. Gut Microbiome
A mother’s milk holds unique nutrients for both the mother and child. The bacteria in a mother’s milk help to develop the immune system of her infant, as well as supplying prebiotics in her milk that helps the baby to metabolize her specific milk.
An interesting aspect of breastfeeding is that feeding directly from the breast amplifies the benefits of this good bacteria, as the skin-to-skin contact is also involved in developing the gut microbiome.
More data is always emerging about the importance of a good gut microbiome, including its ability to impact proper nutrient absorption. A well-established and healthy gut microbiome helps to develop a healthy immune system, fight off chronic diseases, and impact neurodevelopment, inflammation, allergies, and dermatitis.
For the first three months of life, whether breast or bottle-fed, every child tends to have a similar growth pattern. After three months, however, bottle-fed babies gain weight more quickly. This leads to a greater increased chance of obesity later in life.
It is theorized that there is an increased chance of obesity due to the nutrient differences in formula versus breast milk. Breast milk is tailored more to the needs of the child, whereas formula is a high-nutrient diet that programs the infant’s body by promoting more rapid growth, negatively impacting their long-term metabolic health.
The above-mentioned benefits are often forgotten but continue to have a significant impact on the lives of breastfed and bottle-fed babies alike.
Breastfeeding can be difficult, and many new lactating parents find it challenging. If you are struggling with breastfeeding, need additional support and education, or are expecting, schedule a lactation consultation in-person or via telehealth for a personalized lactation plan.
Deciding to work with a lactation consultant, also known as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), can play a vital role in your journey as they mentor, educate, and encourage parents in their breastfeeding journeys.
Don’t let breastfeeding difficulties hold you back – contact an IBCLC today to get the support you need.
Featured Photo by Letticia Massari: https://www.pexels.com/