Breast feeding has health benefits to the infant and some of these health benefits of breast feeding are long term benefits. The long term health benefits of breast feeding includes better dental health, lower risk of diabetes, lesser incidence of childhood cancers and reduced incidence of various other chronic disease (such as Crohn’s disease, juvenile arthritis, Hodgkin’s disease etc.).
Less childhood obesity:
Breast feeding reduce risk of obesity among children, which has become epidemic these days due to lack of physical exercise (no or very little outdoor activities) and watching TV for long hours. Several studies have shown consistent results in regards to the relationship of obesity and breastfeeding. The longer the duration of breastfeeding the lesser is the chance of obesity in the breastfed baby.
Better dental health:
Longer duration of breast feeding is associated with lower incidence of dental problems such as mal-occlusion. Incidence of dental carries is also much less among breast fed children, in compare to formula fed children.
Lower risk of diabetes mellitus:
Breast feeding has protective action against development of diabetes type-1 (IDDM or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus). In Australia, children with IDDM were compared with normal children (without IDDM) with same sex and age. It was found that children who were breast fed during first three months of life had 34% lower risk of developing diabetes (IDDM) than children who were not breast fed. It the study it was also seen that infants fed with cow’s milk based infant formula had 52% increased risk of developing diabetes.
Lower incidence of childhood cancers:
Children who were formula fed or breast fed for less than 6 months have increased risk of developing cancer in the later years and even increased risk of developing cancer before age of 15 years. The risk of developing cancer among formula fed children and adults is several times higher than long term breast fed children.
Lower risk of chronic disease:
Breast fed (especially long term breast feeding) children have lower risk of developing several chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease, juvenile arthritis, Hodgkin’s disease. Breast feeding for 8 months or more have strong protective effect against Hodgkin’s disease, than children who were not breast fed or breast fed for less than 2 months.
General health during childhood:
Breast fed infants suffer from fewer episodes of illness in compare to bottle fed infants. Due to lesser incidences of illness the health in general is better among breast fed children.