Last week we began a discussion on the benefits of breastfeeding related to the prevention of obesity and diabetes. This week we will talk about additional health benefits.
A group of researchers have identified a specific kind of protein in breast-milk that helps jump-start a baby's immune system, providing active protection to the baby. The protein, called soluble CD14, works to develop B cells, which are immune cells that are instrumental in the production of antibodies. Breast milk apparently actively influences the immune system of your child by several different mechanisms. Some features of this improved immune response for children who have been breastfed for a prolonged period may last for a lifetime. We don't know all of the reasons breast milk provides this protection, but we can measure the results.
Research has also found an increased risk during bottle-feeding that includes prolonged airway closure and obstructed breathing due to repeated swallowing. Pre-term infants have shown a decrease in oxygen saturation and an increase in apnea because of the breathing patterns during bottle-feeding.
Lack of breastfeeding was a risk factor associated with later development of Crohn's disease, a disease that deteriorates the small intestine.
Hodgkin's disease is a type of cancer in the white blood cells. There is a statistically significant protective effect against Hodgkin's disease among children who are breastfed at least eight months compared with children who were breastfed no more than two months.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is a long-term (chronic) disease resulting in joint pain and inflammation leading to joint damage. Preliminary data found that children who were breastfed were only 40% as likely to develop this disease.
All these little snippets of research should alert us to thinking seriously about how and what we feed our newborn children. Next week I'll share a few thoughts about caffeine and alcohol for nursing mothers.
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