The countless health benefits in breast milk, help support and maintain a strong immune system in growing babies. Breast milk is a natural gift given to women after giving birth, to provide their infants with the nutrients they need to grow. Breast milk is also easy for babies to digest and helps nursing mothers create a bond with their little ones as well.
When babies are born, they need necessary nutrients to grow and thrive. The first bout of milk supply that comes in after a woman gives birth, is known as colostrum. Colostrum is full of antibodies that can help a baby fight infections and other infectious illnesses that could potentially harm them. Although the colostrum phase only lasts about six weeks, antibodies and small traces of colostrum will remain in the mother throughout her time breastfeeding her baby.
Along with antibodies, a woman’s breast milk is full of fats, sugars, proteins, and even white blood cells that also come together to fight infections, especially gastrointestinal infections. When a baby nurses, the milk goes straight to their stomach and intestine. When in the intestine, breast milk essentially heals and protects an infant’s stomach before it reaches its entire body. This also helps a baby create a strong immune system that will allow them to fight infections even after they are not breastfeeding anymore.
Other proteins such as lactoferrin and interleukin-6, -8 and -10 help a baby’s inflammatory response, which is also important for building a strong immune system.
The probiotic factors in breast milk also support a baby’s immune system and serve as a nutrient source for healthy bacteria, known as the human microbiome. The microbiome has a range of lifelong health benefits such as; decreasing the risk of chronic diseases, asthma, allergies, and obesity.
Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, and more serious illnesses because of all of the immunity-boosting nutrients, probiotics, antibodies, and proteins provided by breast milk. Research has also shown that babies who are breast-fed for over six months are less likely than formula-fed babies to be diagnosed with childhood leukemia and lymphoma.
The first few weeks of breastfeeding, especially for new mothers can be tough. Whether you have had a hard time getting your baby to latch, you aren’t producing enough milk or are overwhelmed due to lack of sleep, continue to keep communication with your doctors and child’s pediatrician. Try to prolong breastfeeding your baby as long as you can and remember, it gets easier with practice.