There are two amazing studies out this week revealing unexpected long term benefits of breastfeeding a baby.
WebMD Health News is reporting that breastfed babies may have lower cholesterol levels in adulthood, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The analysis — based on data from 17 studies with about 17,000 participants, some breastfed and some formula-fed — provides support that early exposure to human milk may be linked to lower blood cholesterol concentrations in adult life.
“Because there is substantial evidence that breast milk provides long-term, protective health benefits, breastfeeding should be advocated when possible,” the study says.
In adulthood, the participants from seven of the studies who had been exclusively breastfed had significantly lower blood cholesterol concentrations than those who had been exclusively formula-fed.
In the second study, HealthDay News reminds us that breast-feeding offers a host of benefits to both mother and baby, including a stronger immune system for the baby and faster weight loss for mom.
There are even some known psychological benefits from breast-feeding, such as a stronger parent-child bond.
But this surprise report says that British researchers have recently discovered another mental bonus — children who are breast-fed seem to cope with stress and anxiety more effectively when they reach school age.
In a group of almost 9,000 children between the ages of 5 and 10, children who weren’t breast-fed and whose parents were getting divorced or separated were 9.4 times more likely to be highly anxious when compared to other children. But, children who were breast-fed as infants whose parents were getting divorced were only 2.2 times as likely to be highly anxious, the study found.
“Breast-feeding is associated with resilience against the psychosocial stress linked with parental divorce/separation,” the study’s authors concluded in a recent issue of the Archives of Diseases in Childhood .
The authors theorized that the physical contact between mother and child in the first few days of life could help form certain neural and hormonal pathways that affect a person’s ability to cope with stress later in life.
Breast-feeding experts have long been aware of the mother-baby bond that occurs during breast-feeding. “There’s a lot less verbal communication, but lots of tactile communication and eye contact that promotes positive physiological responses,” said Liz Maseth, an outpatient lactation consultant at Akron’s Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
“Breast-feeding does seem to suppress stress responses in babies, and it does seem that there’s a protective effect,” she said.
“In terms of the biological possibility, breast milk is pretty amazing stuff, and the tactile interaction that goes along with breast-feeding does have an influence on the development of neurons,” explained Judy Hopkinson, an associate professor of pediatrics in the section of nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Hopkinson added that babies who aren’t breast-fed may be able to reap similar benefits with lots of holding and touching.
But, until or unless that is proven, babies should be breastfed exclusively and for as many months as possible.