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Breastfeeding benefits for mom and baby, as proven by scientific studies

Here are some of the latest studies on the health benefits of breastfeeding, which will be discussed at the Nutrition 2018 meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, this week.

fitness Updated: Jun 10, 2018 14:11 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Breastfeeding may help reduce the mother’s risk of type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes. (Shutterstock)

Breastfeeding your child is believed to benefit the mother and the child, by promoting bonding, reducing the child’s risk of asthma and cancer, and helping the baby fight viruses and bacteria. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months also have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses or bouts of diarrhoea. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends that all babies (even those who are premature, underweight or sickly, should be exclusively breastfed), right from the maternity ward, and ideally for two years.

The Nutrition 2018 meeting, to be held this week, will feature key research findings on how breastfeeding may affect the health of both moms and babies.

A study done by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that breastfeeding may help reduce the mother’s risk of type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes. Conducted over 20 years, the study suggests that breastfeeding for a longer period of time could help women diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Women with gestational diabetes, who lactated for more than a year total (for all children combined), reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by about 30% compared to those who did not breastfeed at all. The research suggested the long-term beneficial impact of lactation may persist across the lifespan of aging women.

Babies who gained weight rapidly in the first four months of life were significantly more likely to be classified as overweight by one year of age, if they were exclusively formula-fed. ( Shutterstock )

A study done by the University of Texas shows that breastfeeding has protective effects against metabolic syndrome in teen years.Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes. A study of overweight and obese Hispanic teens with a family history of type 2 diabetes found that those who were breastfed for at least one month as babies were substantially less likely to have metabolic syndrome in their teen years compared to those who were not breastfed. This protective benefit of breastfeeding was seen among those born to mothers with and without gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Breastfeeding can also help against overweight in babies who gain weight rapidly, says a study by the University of Delaware. Gaining weight rapidly during early life puts infants at increased risk for obesity later on. In the study, babies who gained weight rapidly in the first four months of life were significantly more likely to be classified as overweight by one year of age, if they were exclusively formula-fed rather than breastfed for 11 months or longer.

Evidences were found by Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center of the theory that a woman’s weight influences what’s in her breast milk. Preliminary findings from a new study revealed that breast milk of obese women has higher levels of total fat, the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein, and hormones including leptin and insulin compared to breast milk of normal-weight women during the first six months postpartum. The implications of these differences for infant growth and development are yet unknown.

Drinking sweetened beverages causes fructose spike in breast milk. ( Shutterstock )

A breastfeeding mom’s diet may influence her baby’s intestinal microbiome, says a study by the University of Idaho. The fat, carbohydrate, protein and calorie contents of a breastfeeding mom’s diet have been found to be associated with the kinds of bacteria found in her baby’s stool. This study, the first of its kind relating a mother’s diet to her infant’s microbiome, shed new light on how the intestinal microbiome is shaped during the first months of life.

According to a study by the University of Southern California, drinking sweetened beverages causes fructose spike in breast milk. Researchers report the concentration of fructose in breast milk rose and remained high for up to 5 hours after lactating women consumed a 20-ounce bottle of soda containing 65 grams of sugar (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup). Fructose levels in breast milk were unaffected by drinking an artificially-sweetened beverage containing zero grams of sugar.

The findings from the study will b presented at The Nutrition 2018 meeting at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Eating peanuts while breastfeeding can protect the newborn from developing allergies later in life. ( Shutterstock )

Here are some more interesting findings about breastfeeding:

* Experts say that breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery is important. That’s when your breast produces colostrum, or first milk, which is packed with nutrients in a small amount. Feeding more often also helps produce more milk. Ensure you are eating well and getting enough rest.

* For lactating mothers who have issues like flat or inverted nipples, silicone nipple shields can provide relief. These ultra-thin devices are placed over nipples to make breastfeeding easier. It also helps premature babies who cannot be fed easily.

* A 2017 study shows that eating peanuts while breastfeeding may protect the newborn from developing allergies later in life. According to researchers, children were five times less likely to develop an allergy if their mothers had eaten nuts before weaning and introduced nuts before they were one year old. If mothers did one but not the other, the rate of allergic reactions was ‘significantly higher.’

* A 2017 study found that women who breastfeed their infants were at lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). And other health benefits included a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart attack.

(With inputs from ANI)

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First Published: Jun 10, 2018 14:11 IST