Findings of a new study have clearly proved that mothers who breastfeed their babies in their first month can positively impact their immunity and health for a lifetime. Breastfeeding helps influence the nature of bacteria present in the baby’s digestive system and boosts its immunity to pediatric allergies,, asthma, obesity, circulatory disorders, etc.
“Though the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Save the Children recommend infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies continue breastfeeding for a year or “as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby” after those initial six months,” it is now being said.
For years now, clinicians had believed that breast milk protects children from inadequate nutrition, without knowing that that it can also help them protect from a host of diseases, allergies and other illnesses later in their life by stepping up their immunity. This, say the team of researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, happens when the breast milk acts on the infant’s gut microbiome. This action then prevents certain diseases from developing as the immune system of the neonates gets boosted.
The gut microbiome refers to the “ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms” residing in the gut.
Other factors that affect the composition of the infant’s gut microbiome, besides breastfeeding, could include the infant’s gestational age of birth, method by which he or she was delivered, race or ethnicity of the mother, exposure to tobacco smoke before and after birth and even the presence of pets in the home.
These findings also help confirm that a completely sterile environment is not the most desirable for babies and that the bacteria introduced in its gut through breastfeeding actually help them develop an immunity, says Johnson, head of the public health sciences department at Henry Ford.
The findings of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Houston.