It has long been an important issue that some mothers may still hesitate on whether or not to breastfeed their babies and for how long. The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National institute of Health confirm that breastfeeding can give a lot of benefits to infants and mothers.
The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and Save the Children urge that infants be solely breastfed for the first six months of their life. The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests that babies should continue breastfeeding for a year in, as much as either the mother or the baby would still want.
The question lies in how important breastfeeding is. It has long been known that breastfeeding plays a crucial part in an infant’s first stages of development. Breast milk provides the essential nutrition that an infant formula does not have. Also, it doesn’t just provide important nutritional benefits; breast milk also keeps children protected from getting different kinds of diseases later in life which includes diabetes, heart disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis before they reach the age of 15.
A team of researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan has recently discovered that the effect of breast milk on an infant’s gut microbiome can prevent certain diseases from developing in infants by boosting their immune system. The risk of getting allergies later in life is also decreased.
But there are other influences that contribute to the health of an infant’s gut microbiome, not just breastfeeding. The infant’s gestational age of birth, the particular procedure by which the baby was delivered, the mother’s race, exposure to tobacco smoke before and after birth, and even having pets around are all factors
To explain the term gut microbiome, it refers to the “ecological community of commensal, symbolic, and pathogenic microorganisms” found in the gut; however, bacteria are also present on the skin and other exposed surfaces. A new research uncovered an impressive discovery: our microbiomes can have a very remarkable effect on our health; microbes have been involved in depression, anxiety, autism, and shaping the immune system.
The research by Henry Ford Hospital physicians revealed that it is not favorable for infants to have a sterile environment. “Exposure to these microorganisms, or bacteria, in the first few months after birth actually help stimulate the immune system…If you minimize those exposures, the immune system won’t develop optimally.” Said lead investigator Christine Cole Johnson.