There are been numerous clinical studies done over the past several decades that show what the long-term benefits of breastfeeding are.
Most women who are still in the phase of trying to decide whether they want to breastfeed usually think of the bonding between mother and child first. While bonding is very important, there are many other benefits that can last throughout the child’s lifetime.
The “Metabolic Programming Effect” is one of the newest discoveries. It is the idea that the nutrition a baby receives in the early stages of life programs a person’s metabolism (how the body uses energy) and their over-all health in the future.
By breastfeeding, you are reducing your baby’s risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, asthma, high cholesterol and obesity in adulthood.
According to La Leche League International (LLLI), breastfeeding is protective against a lot of common childhood illnesses, including ear infections, respiratory infections, allergies, colds, viruses, strep throat, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, food poisoning, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
This does not mean your baby (child) will not become sick. However, the illness is usually less severe and does not last as long than if the baby had been fed formula.
For both short and long-term health, breastfeeding your baby at least until their first birthday may be your best chance for lowering their risk for diseases and giving them a better chance at a healthy childhood and adulthood.
Besides the health benefit effects of a baby being breastfed, it also improves the intellectual development. Breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies.
Long-term nursing protects against ulcerative colitis, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease, obesity, and high cholesterol in adulthood. Babies who are breastfed for a year or more are less likely to need braces later in life.
Breastfed babies are more likely to have fewer cardiovascular risk factors in adulthood. They also tend to have Lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and higher HDL levels ("good" cholesterol) in adulthood. Breastfeeding can also lower the risk of immune system diseases, and autoimmune disorders.
Babies who were breastfed long term (a year or more) tend to be more secure and independent than babies who are weaned early, because the babies had their needs met during the helpless period of infancy.
Long-term nursing also provides several benefits for moms.
Many of the benefits of breastfeeding are related to how long you breastfeed. Meaning that the longer you breastfeed over the course of your lifetime, (taking into account the number of children you have) the lower your risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis.
Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of these health problems in women:
● Breast cancer
● Postpartum depression
● Type 2 diabetes
● Ovarian cancer
There are definitely several benefits for both the baby and mom when it comes to long-term breastfeeding. However, if you are only able to breastfeed for a short period of time you and your baby will still reap most of the benefits.
Tammy Mahan has 20 years of healthcare experience; she is also a freelance medical/health writer. Writing for Healthline.com is an enjoyable experience that allows her to share information on numerous topics.