Breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby physically and psychologically. Human milk contains at least 100 ingredients which are not found in artificial milk and it is known to be the perfect start for baby. While mother feels more relaxed, baby receives nature’s super food and thus, develops safely as it is nutritionally perfect. Decades of scientific research have revealed how this fascinating interdependent relationship works and why nursing baby naturally is unmatchable.

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• Colostrum which is nature’s protective serum is given first and boosts baby’s immunity. When breast milk develops a few days after birth baby’s immune system is continued to be given viral and bacterial protectants in order to fight off germs. Moreover, antibodies contained in human milk protect against infections. Breast milk offers the perfect combination of protective agents for baby to be safe during the most critical period of life. In addition, it helps babies to develop their own immune system faster and more strongly because they have time to develop their systems, being protected by mother’s milk, before having to fight off germs themselves.

Breastfeeding gives either complete protection or delays the onset of symptoms of allergies, autoimmune thyroid diseases, bacterial meningitis, celiac disease, diabetes, infant diarrhoea, eczema, urine infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis.

Breastfeeding also appears to be protective against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A study carried out in New Zealand has shown that bottle-fed babies are exposed to twice the risk of SIDS; other scientists believe that the risk can be multiplied by five. There are two main reasons why breastfed babies are less exposed to the dangers of SIDS: 1. Human milk has protective properties which cannot be found in formula milk and thus, give baby natural protection; and 2. The overall way of how baby is cared for differs significantly: while breastfed babies need more frequent feeds, thus being attended to more often, bottle-fed babies tend to sleep in longer intervals. This may be positive for new parents who feel the stress of sleep deprivation; however it is not positive from the baby’s point of view. In addition, studies show that breastfed babies tend to be put onto their back instinctively when feeding during the night. This position is proven to be protective against SIDS.

Human milk may also protect against diseases in later life such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, juvenile diabetes, breast cancer, and malignant lymphoma. Chronic conditions such as asthma and allergies or middle ear infections are more likely to develop or to be more severe in bottle-fed babies.

Breastfed babies show higher I.Q. scores; this finding had nothing to do with their mother’s socioeconomic or educational status.

Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of developing child obesity because human milk contains less fat-stimulating insulin than formula milk and passes on the protein hormone leptin which is believed to help regulate appetite and fat production.

• The more challenging suckling at the breast helps improve muscle development of the face.

• The taste of human milk changes slightly, depending on the mother’s diet, thus preparing baby naturally for a wide variety of solid foods later on.

Breastfed babies usually do not suffer from constipation, as bottle fed babies can do.

Most importantly, infants who are nursed naturally are given more time to bond with their mother because they tend to spend more intimate time together. As baby’s vision is very limited, baby seeks the closeness of mother or father to feel secure and nurtured.

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Experts recommend that baby should ideally be breastfed for at least the first year of his life. Breast milk is nutritionally perfect for your baby’s development and all he needs. In fact, in most non-Western cultures it has been observed that babies are usually breastfed for about 2 years before being weaned. This seems like a long time for us, yet it is perfectly plausible if we consider baby’s delicate immune system that has to sustain harsher living conditions.

In contrast, studies in modern cultures have shown that the average time a baby is breastfed is about 4 months. Some mothers may also decide against breastfeeding altogether because of medical or personal reasons. There are formulas on the market specifically designed for different ages of baby. They represent the only alternative to breast milk as they are designed to be “as close to nature” as artificially possible.

When it is time for baby to taste first solid food, health visitors now follow the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recommends that no solid food should be introduced before the first 6 months.

However, you may receive contradicting advice from older relatives and friends who advocate the introduction of solid food sooner than 6 months. Whatever your decision, follow your baby’s lead: He will show you if he is interested by watching you eat with eager anticipation or by showing signs of being hungrier than normal and requiring constant breast or bottle feeding.

For more tips and tricks about baby’s first food visit http://www.babysbest.co.uk/Articles/Babys-first-food/