Breastfeeding your baby is helping to give them the best start in life, with tailor-made nutrition for their growth and development. It can also help both of you to have some precious bonding time together in the early days and allows Mum to sit down and take some time off her feet, rather than rushing back to doing cooking, cleaning and housework too soon!
However, breastfeeding not only protects infants from childhood illnesses, it also contributes to long-term health, so the benefits go on and on, long after your breastfeeding days are over. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published an extensive review of all of the long-term benefits in 2007(ref). The WHO recommend breastfeeding exclusively for at least 6 months, and up to 2 years and beyond, however, any breastfeeding will confer health benefits to you and your baby.
Did you know that breastfeeding your baby for at least 6 months will reduce by half their chance of being obese at the age of 9? A startling statistic but a great reason to choose breastfeeding and get the supports to help you continue and have a successful experience for you and your baby.
We now know that the nutrition a baby receives while in the womb and during the first 2 years of life (the First 1000 Days) can have a life-long impact on their health as adults. Adults who were breastfed as babies often have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and lower rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes than those who weren’t breastfed as infants. And a large study of over 1000 children in Australia followed up at the age of 10 yrs suggests that those breastfed for 6 months or more had higher scores in reading, spelling and maths tests than those
And for Mums too there are long-term benefits from breastfeeding – Mums who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer than those women who have never breastfed.
So all in all, there are lots of good reasons to try and increase our low breastfeeding rates here in Ireland – you, your baby and our whole society will all benefit.
Ref. Horta et al (2007) WHO Systematic Review. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding. World Health Organisation