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You are here: Home > Baby > Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Has Benefits Beyond Milk

by Katlyn Joy | September 5, 2014 9:52 AM
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The lists of breastfeeding benefits seem innumerable; however most are directly linked to the various nutritious aspects of the milk itself. Now medical literature and studies point to the evidence that the act of breastfeeding provides babies with additional protection and health perks.

We've known that breastfed babies have a lower incidence of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. A study published in a 2009 article in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, looked at the relevance of breastfeeding in the prevention of SIDS. For this study, cases involving 333 babies who died of SIDS and 998 control cases were investigated. The conclusions of the researchers were that breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by about 50 percent.

One breastfeeding proponent, the late Dr. Brian Palmer, thought one possible explanation is that breastfeeding's action helps with the proper development of the hard palate and the airway.

In one study, 1000 preschool children were examined and it was discovered that those who were breastfed had less problems with tooth crowding or tooth alignment.

Another study looked at 8 year old children with family histories of asthma and found that those who had been breastfed were less likely to become snorers or have sleep apnea, a condition where a person stops breathing while sleeping. The researchers adjusted for weight issues, so being overweight did not influence the results. A hypothesis for the results is that apnea occurs more often when the palate is high and the dental arch narrow. This happens typically more often with jaw development associated bottle feeding and pacifier use.

Why Breastfeeding Helps Jaw Development

The sucking a baby has to do to nurse from a mother is much more sophisticated and healthy than the type required of a bottle-fed baby. Babies can sometimes be observed having a bit of quivering in the jaw while breastfeeding, and this arises from muscle fatigue. Babies who breastfeed actually have to work at it, and it involves the jaw muscles, the tongue and a different motion than the much more passive action of a bottle-fed baby.

Breastfed babies are known to have fewer ear infections. Part of the reason is antibodies in mother's milk, but another reason is that when a baby drinks from a bottle fluid is more likely to get pulled into the Eustachian tube of the ear, and fluid can become infected. The risk is increased when baby drinks from a lying down position.

Other Related Benefits

According to Dr. Sears, from his website, a study of 10,000 children found that children who were breastfed a minimum of one year were 40 percent less likely to require orthodontic treatment. This is due to the motions of the facial muscles and tongue which shape the palate properly.

A 2003 study published in Journal of Pediatrics found that breastfeeding contributes to proper oral motor development which in turn helps children avoid speech and language disorders.

According to Dr. Palmer, "Breastfed babies have a better chance of dental health than artificially-fed infants because of the effects of breastfeeding on the development of the oral cavity and airway. With fewer malocclusions, these children may have a reduced need for orthodontic intervention. In addition, children with the proper development of a well rounded, 'U-shaped' dental arch, which is found more commonly in breastfed children, may have fewer problems with snoring and sleep apnea in later life."

Other benefits include:

Preventing obesity.

Studies again and again have shown breastfed babies to be leaner, and later in life, less likely to be overweight. One possible reason is that breastfed babies determine when they are full, and therefore learn to trust their body's signals for satiation.

Reduced risk of heart disease later in life.

While this is a newly studied area, it appears that breastfeeding extends protection throughout life in cardiac concerns, probably due to the metabolism of higher cholesterol levels in breastmilk helping children and adults later to handle cholesterol levels.

Lowered risks of juvenile diabetes.

Researchers have found a lower insulin release in breastfed infants.

Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of your child getting other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, asthma and allergies and pediatric cancers.


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