Breastfeeding linked to lifelong health benefits

Breastfeeding does more than provide the best source of nutrition for infants; it also sets some precedents that can lead to lifelong health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics , Center of Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognize breastfeeding as the optimum nutrition source for infants.  It does not stop there when the principles of breastfeeding are carried further into life – young and old alike benefit.

Parallel these actions to see those benefits:

  1. Eat on demand.
    Hunger rather than the clock or environment dictating when or where a baby wants to eat.  This is body intuition at its best! In a successful breastfeeding experience, baby and caregiver learn the early signs of hunger.  Similarly children and adults can learn their early signs of hunger and avoid the pitfall of unhealthy choices made out of “starvation.”
  2. Stop when you’re full.
    Breastfeed babies dictate the frequency and quantity ingested (demand) driving the quantity a mother is able to produce (supply). Portion control is critical for maintaining healthy weight.  MyPlate is a great iconic tool for making half our plate fruits and vegetables and grains a fourth and protein a fourth. Practical applications for children and adults are reading labels for serving size and saving half of a snack for later of a restaurant portion.
  3. Consume a variety of nutrients.
    Breast milk contains nutrients from the mother’s diet and therefore varies from day to day.  This prepares children to eat a variety of foods. Incorporating variety and different colors into our diets through fruits and vegetables increases the sources of vitamins and minerals for optimum health benefits.  

We typically think of babies learning from the adults and children surrounding them, but learning from infants may lead to the keys we can all live by.   Observations of infants’ breastfeeding could teach us all a thing or two about preventing obesity and increasing dietary quality.

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