It's no secret that breastfeeding has amazing immediate benefits for both babies and mothers. It's basically broadcast anywhere there's information available. But what about as your child gets older and you stop nursing? Are there any ways breastfeeding affects your child later in life? If the suspense is too much to bear, I'll cut to the chase right away with a resounding "yes." The benefits of breastfeeding don't stop at six months, or a year, or whenever you decide to wean your baby. In fact, according to some experts, there really isn't an end in sight when it comes to long term effects of nursing.
Evidence for the immediate benefits of breastfeeding for both babies and moms is overwhelming— it lowers the baby's risk of getting sick, can help you loose the baby weight, and even fights off allergens and infections. But as your child gets older, the research on breastfeeding gets less prevalent. And while there is certainly a wealth of information yet to be uncovered about breast milk and its effect on a child's health, experts have long suspected that the benefits of breastfeeding doesn't stop when you do.
These six ways breastfeeding can help your baby well into childhood (and even adulthood) are staggering and well worth the energy, lost sleep and effort it takes to nurse your little one.
1. It Leads To Higher IQs
As crazy of a statement as that is, it's where the evidence points. A 2013 study in Brazil surveyed nearly 6,000 babies of all backgrounds for over 30 years in order to test the long term benefits of breastfeeding. They discovered that the babies who breastfed for a year or longer had higher IQs as adults, better earnings, and higher education, regardless of how well off their family was.
2. It Lowers Risk Of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, where the pancreas isn't able to produce enough insulin, is the most prevalent type among children. An article from About Kid's Health states that breastfeeding for longer than one year, as well as waiting to introduce cow's milk, may reduce their chances of diabetes.
3. Lower Rates Of Obesity
Studies show that breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood obesity, and expands into adulthood too. According to La Leche League, one of the leading resources for breastfeeding, infants who were breastfed for a minimum of six months were significantly less overweight, even up to 18 years of age.
4. It Lowers Risk Of Dental Problems
According to an article published by Dr. Sears, more often than not, breastfed babies have better jaw alignment, reducing the need for things like braces or headgear later in life. The article sites a study where over 10,000 breastfed children were found 40 percent less likely to need dental work because of the "complex motions of the facial muscles and tongue" involved in breastfeeding.
5. It Lowers Risk Of Asthma And Allergies
Not surprisingly, Science Daily notes that breastfed babies are also shown to have lower rates of developing allergies later in life, as well as lowered chances of asthma, wheezing and dry coughs.
6. It Lowers Risk Of Childhood Cancers
Childhood cancer is one of the leading causes of death among children, and while the evidence is still limited, studies are showing that breastfeeding for at least six months can reduce a child's risk. Research published in the JAMA Pediatric Network suggests that children who are breastfed for the recommended amount of time are 14 to 20 percent less likely to contract the disease.