In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are all in agreement that a diet of only breastmilk is ideal for children up to the age of six months. The World Health Organization also asserts that this practice is the key to achieving optimal growth, health, and development.
A mother's milk has a host of benefits for both mother and baby. Breastmilk is easy for babies to digest, and contains antibodies that can protect them from bacterial and viral infections. Research has suggested breastmilk can help prevent some serious and costly childhood illnesses, such as stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, and type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. It has also been shown to help reduce the risk of childhood obesity.
According to the CDC, health benefits extend to the mother as well. Research has shown that women who breastfeed may have lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers.
Although a mother's milk is valuable for all babies, premature babies may have the most to gain from breastfeeding. Preemie deaths are most often caused by:
Studies show breastfeeding can reduce these risks, as well as seven other illnesses that have been linked to deaths among premature babies.