Breastfeeding is the healthiest form of nutrition for babies, but according to researchers, breastmilk provides more than just nutrients for your growing baby. A study completed by Enrique Garcia Artero and associates reveals a connection between adolescent physical health and breastfeeding.

breastfeeding-breastmilk-nutrition.jpgThe study included nearly 2,800 participants. Parents of the adolescents involved in the study were asked about how the children were fed as infants and the duration of the specific feeding style. Physical testing was used to evaluate the physical conditions of the adolescents in the study.

According to the research results, which were published in the Journal of Nutrition, breastfeeding led to stronger lower body muscles than bottle feeding. The longer mothers chose to breastfeed, the stronger the leg muscles in the breastfed adolescent group. Study participants showed greater leg strength than bottle fed peers even when other factors like body mass and weight were taken into consideration. The positive results were noted in both boys and girls.

Starting at three months of breastfeeding, adolescents started performing better in vertical jump test results. Participants breastfed for more than six months performed better than participants who were breastfed between three and five months.

According to UNICEF, “If all children were exclusively breastfed from birth, it would be possible to save approximately 1.5 million lives.” Breastfeeding advantages are commonly stressed by doctors and pediatricians. Breastmilk provides all the fat, calories, vitamins, nutrients and protein infants need for the first year of life. As baby’s needs change, so does breastmilk so there is no need to supplement breastmilk with food or formula during this time.

Women who breastfeed are also graced with positive benefits, including reduction in post-labor mortality rates, lower breast cancer risk and lower ovarian cancer risk.

Further research is needed to evaluate just how breastmilk impacts lower body strength and performance in adolescence, but doctors involved in the study are claiming improved physical performance as another positive benefit of breastfeeding.

Source: E. G. Artero, F. B. Ortega, V. Espana-Romero, I. Labayen, I. Huybrechts, A. Papadaki, G. Rodriguez, B. Mauro, K. Widhalm, M. Kersting, Y. Manios, D. Molnar, L. A. Moreno, M. Sjostrom, F. Gottrand, M. J. Castillo, S. De Henauw. Journal of Nutrition. 5 January, 2011.