What is in breastmilk?
The first milk supply produced by mom, once baby is born is called colostrum, or golden milk. Colostrum is high in special proteins which coat the newborn’s intestinal tract to protect from harmful bacteria. Breast milk contains easily absorbed nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, immune properties, live antibodies, and substances that naturally soothe baby. Mom’s milk is a perfectly balanced blend of nutrients that support baby’s growth and development.
How does breastfeeding impact baby’s gut health?
When a baby is born, their GI tract is as sterile as it will ever be, but by the age of 2-3 years old they have a fully adult microbiome. The first few years of life are extremely important for gut health, with the first 1,000 days being the most crucial, which includes their time in utero during mom’s pregnancy. Developing a robust gut microbiome at this time can provide baby an inheritance that will continue to provide for them throughout their entire life. The nutrients passed to baby through breast milk:
Strengthen their immune system
Lower their risk of GI disorders / GI symptoms
Result in fewer colds and respiratory illnesses
Make them less likely to have ear infections
Make them less likely to acquire meningitis
Promote vision health – lowering their risk of retinopathy (disease of part of the eye called the retina)
Lower infant mortality and SIDS risk
Result in less illness and less hospitalization
Increase their acceptance of fruits & vegetables if mom is regularly including them in her diet, as their palates are acclimating to a multitude of new flavors
In addition, breast milk is nutrient dense, providing nearly perfect amounts of fat, protein, and calories to baby, which can reduce their risk of obesity in life. Breastfeeding is clearly a huge benefit to a baby’s gut health, and can have lasting impacts throughout their life.
What are the long lasting effects of breastfeeding for baby?
Along with developing a healthy gut, breastfeeding also has a great impact in other aspects of a baby’s health. Breastfeeding improves brain maturation and reduces the risk for allergies, asthma, childhood cancer, GI disorders, respiratory illness, speech impediments, cavities, and obesity. Additionally, skin-to-skin contact that occurs during breastfeeding strengthens the bond between mom and baby through release of bonding and loving and relaxation hormones like oxytocin. Studies have shown that as a result, social and behavioral problems are possibly reduced later in life. The bond between mom and baby are not the only benefits for mom.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mom?
Breastfeeding not only supports a baby's gut health, but also has long lasting effects on mom’s health. Research has shown that breastfeeding lowers mom’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, endometriosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Other breastfeeding benefits for mom include:
Up to 6x less absenteeism from work
Faster postpartum weight loss – breastfeeding burns up to 500 kcal/day
Signals the uterus to return to rapidly contract and shrink back normal size
Less postpartum bleeding
Less likely to get a UTI
Lowers risk of anemia
Lowers risk of postpartum depression
Produces stress-reducing hormones
Enhances self esteem
Increases calmness – due to fewer infant health complications
Simplifies traveling when traveling with baby– breastmilk is naturally clean and the perfect temperature
Ability to learn infant’s cues and their infant develops trust
The symbiotic relationship between mom and baby has a multitude of benefits that impacts each individual’s health which cannot yet be replicated by formula!
Are we writing this to shame any women who were unable to breastfeed their children due to lack of support, health, medications taken, mental health? NEVER!
We acknowledge that some women are unable to breastfeed due to lack of support, health, mental health, perception of inadequacy of their milk supply, fatigue, etc. We acknowledge that fed is always best & hope this post encourages women to do what they are able to for their babies, no matter what that looks like. We also hope it encourages women to strive to breastfeed because there truly is nothing in the world that can compare to breastmilk & all of its benefits.
Call-to-Action: What should I do to make sure baby has a #goodgut right from the start?
Do your best to breastfeed your baby for at least the first 6 months of life, and even to two years, if it is working for you and your baby. This is the best way to give them the robust immune system and microbiome that they can possibly have!
Include an abundance of prebiotic fiber in your diet.
Continue to take a prenatal multivitamin with omega 3 and vitamin D to pass the benefits on to the baby while still breastfeeding.
Feeding baby prebiotic fiber once they are ready can be beneficial to the gut microbiome, as clinical studies show the benefits can be long-term.
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