Babies who are exclusively breastfed from birth until 6 months have significantly reduced instances of respiratory infections and for those with respiratory illness who are breastfed, the duration and severity are shorter. Repeated instances of croup and severe bronchiolitis in infancy are a major risk factor for the development of childhood wheezing and asthma. By breastfeeding your baby, you are not only preventing illness in the short term but are also reducing their risk of development of chronic conditions later in life. In addition to respiratory illness, babies who are breastfed also have fewer ear infections and less instances of gastroenteritis.
Breastfeeding your child does not mean your child will never fall ill. Breastmilk is not magic – but ask any breastfeeding mother and she’ll probably tell you, it’s close. A 2016 study found that if breastfeeding for 6 months reached a near universal level, more than 820,000 deaths of children under 5 could be avoided each year.
Breastfeeding your child does not mean your child will never fall ill. Breastmilk is not magic – but ask any breastfeeding mother and she’ll probably tell you, it’s close.
Breastfeeding doesn’t just benefit the baby, there are benefits for the breastfeeding mother’s health and wellbeing too. Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. The act of breastfeeding also stimulates feel-good hormones that reduce stress and increase positive maternal mental wellbeing.
Just like wellness, prevention is not a new concept – the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’ can be attributed to a Dutch philosopher in the 1500s. Many contemporary health care strategies exist to prevent disease. The challenge today lies in not only educating families about the importance of breastfeeding, but ensuring they have enough support within our communities and health care systems to meet the recommendations.
Breastfeeding not only promotes wellness at an individual level, but improves population wellness through prevention of illness.
Emily Brittingham is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with her own private practice in Melbourne. Emily is mother to 5 breastfed babies and is passionate about supporting families at all stages of their breastfeeding journey. You can find Emily on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/melbourne_lc or visit her website at https://melbournelactationconsulting.com.au