Human milk provides a lifelong gift for future heart health. While the immunological benefits of human milk for the infant are well-known, there is also compelling evidence that there are lifelong benefits for infants lucky enough to be breastfed by their mothers.
According to three studies published in the first week of February 2002, researchers have found that babies who gain weight too fast in the first year of life can become obese and develop high blood pressure later in life. According to Dr. Nicolas Stettler of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who led the study appearing in Pediatrics, "Early infancy seems to be a critical period for the establishment of obesity."
Dr. Stettler says that one easy way to prevent infants from putting on too much weight is to follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Give an infant nothing but human milk up to the age of six months, add solids slowly after this and continue breastfeeding for the first year or longer.
Extensive research suggests that breastfeeding not only plays a future role in minimizing obesity but also helps prevent insulin-dependent diabetes and high cholesterol, conditions that are among the highest risk factors in developing heart disease.
Insulin-dependent diabetes is also less common among children who had been breastfed. Those who were exclusively breastfed during the first three months of life had a 34 percent lower risk of developing this disease later in life.
Several studies also indicate that babies provided with human milk were more likely to have good cholesterol readings later on in life. Exclusive breastfeeding in the early months resulted in higher HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) later in life. In a 2001 study in