Hello Latch onto Health familia! With August being National Breastfeeding Month, and World Breastfeeding Week landing August 1-7, we will be celebrating the magic of nursing all month long! We have explored the benefits of nursing for mama and baby, but are there lasting benefits for baby into childhood and adulthood? We are kicking off this month by diving deep into the long-term benefits of breastfeeding your bundle of joy!
Lower Risk of Asthma
Breastfeeding your baby may offer protection for asthma. Evidence suggests that a “longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of asthma in children aged 5-18 years.” (1) The reduced risk was observed in high-income countries as well as middle/low-income countries. Based on this comprehensive analysis, breastfeeding exclusively for 3-4 months seemed to offer the most significant protection. There was no significant association observed between nursing exclusively beyond this point and lower risk of asthma at 5-18 years.
Take away: Even if you can only nurse your baby those first few months, stretching to 4 months may offer protection for asthma and is associated with a lower risk up through 18 years old! Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!
There is an association between duration of breastfeeding and cognition according to a recent study. It found that 7-year old’s who were breastfed their first year gained 4.2 verbal IQ points more than those that were never breastfed. The association was stronger with children that were exclusively breastfed the first 6 months increasing to 4.8 points. (2)
Another study performed in Brazil found that prolonged breastfeeding increased intelligence until at least age 30! They found breastfed babies had higher IQs, more years in education and higher earnings. The longer they were breastfed as children, the greater the benefits observed in adulthood. (3)
Take away: Breastfeeding your baby exclusively for at least 6 months may result in higher cognitive abilities and a higher IQ. Nursing can also help your child stay in school longer and get paid more as an adult! A higher IQ and more nursing snuggles – count us in!
Childhood cancer is on the rise and breastfeeding your baby may be the best thing you can do to protect them. A study focused on the effects of prolonged breastfeeding on lymphoid cancers in children under 15 years of age found that nursing your baby for longer than 6 months as associated with a lower risk. The study confirmed that extended breastfeeding has a protective effect against acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL). (4) A meta-analysis of studies investigating the association between breastfeeding and childhood cancers estimates that exclusive breastfeeding could prevent at most 5% of cases of ALL and HL. (5) Though this percentage may seem small, it is most certainly significant.
Take Away: Breastfeeding for 6 months or longer can help offer some protection to your little one against ALL and HL. Exclusively breastfeeding could even prevent some cancer cases, which is another reason to set a breastfeeding goal beyond 6 months.
Breastfeeding during infancy may reduce the risk of your child developing type-2 diabetes later in life. A study examining the influence of breastfeeding on blood glucose and insulin concentrations found that those subjects who were breastfed had a significantly lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes than those subjects that were formula fed. Furthermore, children and adults that breastfed as infants had a lower fasting insulin concentration that those that were formula fed. Though no significant difference was seen in blood glucose levels between breastfed and formula fed in the subjects, observational evidence suggests that breastfeeding can reduce the prevalence of type-2 diabetes for your child as they grow. (6)
Take away: Breastfeeding may offer additional protection for your baby later on in life from developing type-2 diabetes so add that to the list of benefits to nursing your baby as often and as long as you can.
This is a concise and condensed list of some lasting breastfeeding benefits. The bottom line is that breastfeeding your infant will benefit them throughout their lives. Nursing is a beautiful journey you take with your child that creates a bond like no other. It allows you to nourish your child’s body and mind while offering them additional protection against asthma, diabetes, cancer, and the list goes on.
However long you can breastfeed your baby is fantastic. Every drop of breastmilk is beneficial to your baby, so whether you can only breastfeed a day, go beyond three years or stop somewhere in between – remember that you are providing your child with benefits that will extend far beyond today.