Credit from kelly mom
Child Health BenefitsHuman milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes. In addition, human milk-fed premature infants receive significant benefits with respect to host protection and improved developmental outcomes compared with formula-fed premature infants. From studies in preterm and term infants, the following outcomes have been documented.
Infectious DiseasesResearch in developed and developing countries of the world, including middle-class populations in developed countries, provides strong evidence that human milk feeding decreases the incidence and/or severity of a wide range of infectious diseases including bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, diarrhea,respiratory tract infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, urinary tract infection, and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants. In addition, postneonatal infant mortality rates in the United States are reduced by 21% in breastfed infants.
Other Health OutcomesSome studies suggest decreased rates of sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of life and reduction in incidence of insulin-dependent (type 1) and non–insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus,lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin disease, overweight and obesity, hypercholesterolemia,and asthma in older children and adults who were breastfed, compared with individuals who were not breastfed. Additional research in this area is warranted.
NeurodevelopmentBreastfeeding has been associated with slightly enhanced performance on tests of cognitive development. Breastfeeding during a painful procedure such as a heel-stick for newborn screening provides analgesia to infants.
Maternal Health BenefitsImportant health benefits of breastfeeding and lactation are also described for mothers.The benefits include decreased postpartum bleeding and more rapid uterine involution attributable to increased concentrations of oxytocin,decreased menstrual blood loss and increased child spacing attributable to lactational amenorrhea,earlier return to prepregnancy weight,decreased risk of breast cancer, decreased risk of ovarian cancer,and possibly decreased risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis in the postmenopausal period.
Community BenefitsIn addition to specific health advantages for infants and mothers, economic, family, and environmental benefits have been described. These benefits include the potential for decreased annual health care costs of $3.6 billion in the United States; decreased costs for public health programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); decreased parental employee absenteeism and associated loss of family income; more time for attention to siblings and other family matters as a result of decreased infant illness; decreased environmental burden for disposal of formula cans and bottles; and decreased energy demands for production and transport of artificial feeding products. These savings for the country and for families would be offset to some unknown extent by increased costs for physician and lactation consultations, increased office-visit time, and cost of breast pumps and other equipment, all of which should be covered by insurance payments to providers and families.