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The Bountiful Benefits of Breastfeeding

Update Date: Aug 27, 2012 10:47 AM EDT

Breastfeeding your child can foster a special bond between infants and their mothers. During breastfeeding mothers take a step back from being human and step into an older, more natural and instinctive role of mother hood. An ability shared with most mammals, female bodies are able to produce sustenance for their newborns that is their bodies own special blend of nutrition. And if science tells us anything is to trust our bodies.

Studies have demonstrated a number of important health benefits to breastfeeding. Among them:

1. Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children

2. Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15

3. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life, are able to lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer

Breastfeeding also has economic advantages, as its is cheaper than buying infant formula and can reduce hospital visits due to the amount of infections and diseases in can prevent. 

What, you may ask, makes Breast milk so special? 

In a recent study published in the August issue of the journal Current Nutrition & Food Science, scientists at Duke University Medical Center identify a unique property that makes mother's milk better than infant formula in protecting infants from infections and illnesses. 

The study explains how breast milk, but not infant formula, fosters colonies of microbiotic flora in a newborn's intestinal tract that aid nutrient absorption and immune system development. 

"Only breast milk appears to promote a healthy colonization of beneficial biofilms, and these insights suggest there may be potential approaches for developing substitutes that more closely mimic those benefits in cases where breast milk cannot be provided," says William Parker, PhD, associate professor of surgery at Duke and senior author of the study tells University Press.

Earlier studies have also shown that breast milk lowers the incidence of diarrhea, influenza and respiratory infections during infancy, while protecting against the later development of allergies, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses, as reported by the news release.

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