It’s safe to say that when it comes to a newborn’s nutrition, most of us can agree that breastfed is best. And as it turns out, we now have another potential breastfeeding benefit to chew on.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba studied 2,700 moms and their babies over the course of a year, and found that those who were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives had a lower chance of developing wheezing, which can eventually turn into asthma.
Furthermore, the study also found that babies who were at a high risk for developing asthma (thanks to their genetics) were actually 62 per cent less likely to have wheezing, compared to high-risk babies who weren’t breastfed at all. As for low-risk babies, they were still 26 per cent less likely to develop wheezing than formula-fed babes.
So what’s the theory behind this latest development?
Researchers believe this breastfeeding benefit could result from a couple of factors, including the increased enzymes and antibodies found in breast milk and the fact that a baby has to suck harder to feed from the breast than he or she does from the bottle. That, in turn, could help their lungs to develop in a different way. Whatever it is, researchers note that it’s an important correlation whether a mom breastfeeds or not, since it could lead to better formula and bottles being made.
“This research can benefit all babies, because the more we know about breast milk and how it works, the better we can make our infant formulas, which are necessary as an alternative for moms who can’t breastfeed,” said Meghan Azad, the study’s co-author. “The more we know about sort of the optimal feeding for infants, the better we can design nutrition guidelines and infant formulas.”
Azad also noted that babies who were only partially breastfed did benefit from it, but that it was then undercut by formula. The early introduction of food didn’t appear to have any impact on the study either.
When it comes to the crazy things the human body can do, breast milk itself is pretty amazing.