How Breastfeeding Helps Prevent Crohn's Disease
While this is an article on the benefits of breastfeeding, primarily in reducing a child’s risk for Crohn’s disease, there is no blame intended for those who choose not to nurse.
The choice regarding breastfeeding is a personal decision.
Only you can know what’s best for you and your situation.
Before we get into the research study that demonstrates breastfeeding lowers the chance of babies developing Crohn’s disease (CD) in later life, let’s look at how breastfeeding has evolved over time.
How breastfeeding has changed
The practice of breastfeeding seems to rise and fall in popularity over time.
At the turn of the 20th century, breastfeeding was the norm. However, in the 1920s, when refrigerators came into existence and baby formula hit the market, the number of nursing mothers dropped drastically. Convenience became the mantra for these ‘new age’ Moms: “Just make it and throw it in the ice-box.”
The reduced number of nursing Moms continued so that by the 1970s, only one in four nursed their babies. So, if you were born in the 1970s or 1980s, statistics show you probably were not breastfed.
Today, the rate of Moms nursing their babes is three out of four. When polled as to why they chose to breastfeed, many said because it was healthier for their babies. Others cited the financial savings.
When those who don’t nurse were polled, 2/3 said they couldn’t and 1/3 said it was because they had to return to work.
As a timeline comparison to the above practices of breastfeeding, let’s consider the history of the La Leche League and their efforts to promote breastfeeding.
The history of La Leche League
In 1958, when the La Leche League was started, breastfeeding was not a common practice for new mothers. Those who did choose to nurse their baby got little or no support from their community.
We’re told that doctors of the day acknowledged the benefits to the child in being fed breast milk. And yet, they joined to openly take the stand that breastfeeding was difficult for new mothers. And, that the mothers weren’t educated in the fields of science and medicine, which they said was required for successful breastfeeding.
Well, in the midst of this, 7 women banded together to help new Moms learn how to breastfeed. Mainly by word of mouth, The League spread and “has now grown into several million members worldwide.”
It’s not clear who named the group, but it is known that la leche means milk in Spanish.
Health benefits of breastfeeding
It has been said that a child who is breastfed gains nutrition, comfort, and fuel for his/her development.
A few of the other benefits, according to La Leche, include:
- “A happier tummy: Breast milk appears to reduce the risk of digestive upset by keeping harmful microorganisms in check while encouraging the growth of beneficial ones.
- No allergies: While 2 to 3 percent of babies are allergic to cow's milk (or soy alternatives), the odds are slim (that mother’s milk will disagree with the baby.)
- Protection from infection: With each feeding, breastfed babies get a healthy dose of antibodies from the Mom, which helps boost their immunity.
- A brain boost: Breast milk contains the fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is important for brain development.”
In addition to the benefits above, we now learn that breastfeeding lowers the risk for babies to develop IBD, such as Crohn’s disease, in later years.
Read on to learn more about this connection.