Human breastmilk is the optimal form of nutrition for a baby in the first few months of life.
Short term gastro-intestinal benefits include :
- Enhanced stomach emptying (better for reflux)
- Increased gut motility (rare for a breastfed baby to become constipated)
- Natural acquisition of beneficial gut micro-organisms (Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus) through human milk oligosaccharides to establish a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a role in metabolism, immunity and allergy prevention.
- Decreases the incidence of necrotising enterocolitis (serious gut infection) in premature babies
Breastmilk contains many antimicrobial substances, preventing and decreasing the severity of illness during and for a period after breastfeeding :
- Gastro-enteritis (diarrhoea)
- Respiratory tract infections (up to the first year of life)
- Acute and recurrent otitis media (middle ear infection) (up to the first 2 years of life)
Long term benefits :
- Post-natal flavour learning.
Eating vegetables during breastfeeding will increase the chance that your baby will eat them too.
- Allergy prevention
- Auto-immune disease prevention
(type 1 diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel disease)
- Decreased risk of cancer (decreases leukemia risk by 20%)
- Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Improved vision and hearing
- Better bonding between mom and baby
Potential long term benefits (not convincingly proven yet):
- Decreased risk of becoming obese (overweight)
- Improved neuro-development (better IQ)
- Less childhood behavioural problems
Breastmilk can be frozen (in a sterilized bottle). If special containers for this purpose aren’t available, you may express into a normal (sterilized) bottle, covering it with plastic or foil to prevent contamination.
How to thaw : swirl bottle with frozen expressed breast milk under running, warm water. Don’t thaw at room temperature : it takes too long, spoiling may occur. Never heat in a microwave. Never refreeze once thawed.
How long can expressed breast milk be stored?
- Fridge ice compartment : 2 weeks
- Freezer : 3 months.