Breast Milk Antibodies And Their Magic Benefits
As a breastfeeding mom, you might encounter a lot of challenges. From helping your baby learn to latch to waking in the middle of the night with engorged breasts, breastfeeding may not always be the magical experience you expected.
There’s a special joy in the milk drunk smile of your sleeping little one. But for many breastfeeding moms, the motivation to push through challenges also comes from knowing they’re providing their baby with the best possible nutrition.
You’ve likely heard time and again that breast milk can keep your baby healthy. That’s because your milk contains antibodies that pack a big punch for immunity.
Breast milk antibodies can offer many benefits to babies. These include reducing your baby’s risk of:
Middle ear infections. A 2015 review of 24 studies found that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months provides protection against otitis media up to 2 years of age, with a 43 percent reduction in occurrence.
Respiratory tract infections. A large population-based 2017 study showed that breastfeeding for 6 months or longer reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections in children until age 4 years.
Colds and flu. Exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months can reduce the risk of your baby contracting an upper respiratory virus by 35 percent, per another population-based 2010 study.
A smaller study found that breastfed infants had greater success in developing immunity to the flu.
Gut infections. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for 4 months or longer have a significantly lower incidence of gastrointestinal tract infections, per a population-based 2010 study.
Breastfeeding is associated with a 50 percent decrease in diarrhea episodes and 72 percent decrease in hospital admissions due to diarrhea, per one comprehensive 2016 review of studies.
Intestinal tissue damage. For preterm babies, a 60 percent reduction in necrotizing enterocolitis was associated with being fed breast milk in a 2019 study.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Breastfeeding can reduce the likelihood of developing early onset IBD by 30 percent, according to one 2009 study (though researchers noted more studies are needed to confirm this protective effect).
Diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is lessened by 35 percent, according to pooled data from .
Breastfeeding for at least 6 months means a 20 percent decrease in the risk of childhood leukemia, says a 2017 review of 17 different studies.
Obesity. Breastfed babies have a 26 percent lower odds of developing overweight or obesity, according to a 2015 review of studies.
What’s more, breastfeeding can also reduce the severity of many illnesses and infections should your baby become sick. When a baby is exposed to an illness, mom’s breast milk will change to give them the specific antibodies they need to fight it off. Breast milk really is a powerful medicine!
If you’re feeling sick, there’s usually no reason to stop breastfeeding your baby.
The exceptions to that rule are if you’re undergoing certain treatments, like chemotherapy, or on certain medications that are unsafe for your baby to consume.
Of course, you should always maintain good hygiene when breastfeeding your baby to avoid transmitting germs whenever possible. Remember to wash your hands frequently!