Breast Feeding Benefits the Health of Mother and Child

Vikki Scovell

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I would like to celebrate and explore the health benefits of the original home-made meal.

The first food that we receive on entering the world is breast milk; a food so perfectly balanced to provide nutrition, hydration, and protection that it is impossible to replicate synthetically. Breast milk confers many health benefits to babies and feeding mothers, and yet it has been suggested by the World Health Organisation that it is one the of the worlds most underused resources, and that reversing the decline in breastfeeding could save 1.5 million lives every year. Many women in the West choose not to breast feed, experience difficulties, or are unable to feed easily after returning to work. In the rest of the world, women may be encouraged by unscrupulous formula companies, or by perceptions of western culture, to believe that their babies will be healthier and happier on western-style baby formulas, and that breastfeeding is an out-dated and impoverished practice. However, breast feeding confers a multitude of health benefits to both mother and baby;

Breastfeeding supports the immune system of the child. Some benefits last while the child is being breast fed as the baby ‘shares’ the mothers immunity to disease. (In fact breastfed babies have 15% fewer GP consultations than babies fed on artificial formula). Some effects may last a life time; proffering protection against heart disease, Crohns disease, and Insulin Dependent Diabetes (Type 1), with research adding more diseases to this list each year. It appears that the longer a child is breast fed, the stronger the protective influences, and breastfeeding for a longer duration is linked to reduced atopic dermatitis and asthma, other allergic conditions, and reduced risk of childhood obesity. There is also preliminary evidence suggesting that breastfeeding protects children against some cancers, and certain auto-immune conditions. Artificially fed babies suffer more regular ear infections, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, and allergic conditions.

The mother also receives benefit from breastfeeding; Harvard Medical School has conducted research showing a lower incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in breastfeeding women, and the longer the women feed, the lower the incidence. Breastfeeding mothers also lower their risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis.

Breastfeeding women need not increase their calorie intake, as used to be suggested, but it is important to support breastfeeding through healthy eating, and drinking lots of water. Beware of eating hydrogenated fats, as these reduce the amount of nutritious ‘cream’ in breast milk. Ensure breasts are well supported at all times with a well-fitting bra, and especially during exercise with a good sports bra (

Be aware that breasts usually change size through pregnancy, breastfeeding and weaning, so you may need to splash out on more than one sports bra to cover the period from early pregnancy through to weaning; having a well-fitting sports bra is of paramount importance, and worth the investment.

Until next time, stay healthy,

Vikki Scovell BA(hons) PG DIP is a fully qualified Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach. She is a qualified Nutrition Adviser and runs successful Community Exercise classes. Vikki is a consultant in Healthy Eating and Exercise initiatives to schools in the independent sector and publishes School and General Healthy Living newsletters =>

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