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Although formula feeding has become increasingly popular and its composition is quite close to breast milk, however, it cannot replace the real thing. Breastfeeding’s purpose goes beyond just feeding the baby’s appetite and helps in bonding and attachment. Mothers who are not too keen on the idea of breastfeeding their babies without having a legitimate reason for doing so will benefit a great deal by reading further and understanding why it is a much better option than formula feeding.
Advantages of Colostrum
Colostrum is the first milk produced by the breasts during pregnancy. Also referred to as ‘high octane milk’ by some experts, it is highly concentrated and rich in carbohydrates, proteins and antibodies. Being low in volume, it is the perfect first food for the baby. When the baby breastfeeds on colostrum, it is similar to receiving the first vaccination as colostrum is filled with antibodies and immunoglobulins. It also acts as a laxative and helps the baby pass its first stool that helps in the excretion of bilirubin and prevents jaundice.
Colostrum works as a natural vaccine as it has the highest concentration of immune factors which defends the baby against infections. While still in the uterus, the placenta keeps the baby’s circulatory system supplied with an antibody called immunoglobulin G (IgG) which fights against diseases. Once born, colostrum gives the baby another antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) which protects the baby in areas such as mucous membranes in the throat, lungs and intestines.
Since a newborn’s intestine is permeable, colostrum plays a vital role in protecting it from foreign substances from penetrating it. It does this by coating the holes in the gastrointestinal tract. Colostrum is also high in protective white cells called leukocytes which defend against microbes.
How Is Breast Milk Better Than Formula?
Breast milk is the baby’s natural food source. It is full of the nutrients required by the baby such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and most importantly antibodies needed to fight infections. Breast milk is also low in fat and unlike formula fed babies; there are little chances of overfeeding. Breast milk also prepares the baby for different tastes. As the taste of the milk is affected by what the mother consumes, the baby will grow up to be less of a fussy eater. The most important benefit being the immunity breast milk provides. Whenever the baby falls ill, and the infection gets passed on to the mother, her body can prepare antibodies to fight the infection in the baby which is provided through her breast milk.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
Breastfeeding is the most natural feeding method for babies and has maximum benefits since breast milk has everything babies need in the right quantities. Some of the well-known benefits are:
1. Complete Source of Nutrition
Breast milk has the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that are easier to digest and absorb for the baby. Breast milk also changes to meet the growing baby’s nutritional demand over time.
2. Boosts Immunity
The colostrum fed to the baby just after birth is packed with antibodies that eradicate several diseases. Breast milk is also rich in vital antibodies required to fight off infections, allergies, thereby strengthening the baby’s immune system. It also protects babies from ear infections which are commonly seen in formula-fed babies. Breastfed babies also have fewer cases of respiratory problems compared to formula-fed ones.
3. Bonding With the Mother
Breastfeeding strengthens the bonding between the mother and the baby. It does that by enhancing the closeness and comfort, making the baby feel safe in the mother’s arms.
4. Less Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is less common in breastfed babies than the bottle and formula-fed babies. The chances of infections in the gastrointestinal tract are higher when babies are bottle-fed as the bottles can get contaminated. On the contrary, breastfeeding is more hygienic, and breast milk fights infections.
5. Lowered Risk of SIDS
According to research, breastfed babies have a decreased chance of sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfed babies have higher immunity towards infections that can turn fatal and end in SIDS.
6. Better Development of the Brain
Several studies have stated that breastfed babies tend to be smarter and have a higher IQ. They also reach developmental milestones a little earlier than their formula-fed counterparts and can pick up on language and solve puzzles far earlier. The benefits continue as they grow and have lesser problems with behaviour and learning. Breastfed kids also have better cognitive skills than those who are formula-fed.
7. Lowered Obesity and Diabetes Risk
Bottle-fed babies tend to consume more milk and therefore have a 20 to 30 percent higher chance of being obese. They also develop a higher risk of obesity later in life, unlike breastfed babies. The balanced nutrition in breast milk also ensures there is a lesser chance of diabetes in children by as much as 35 percent.
8. Reduced Risk of Cancer in Childhood
Studies show that breastfed babies have lowered risk of childhood cancer that develops before the age of 15 years. On the other hand, bottle-fed babies have eight times the risk of childhood cancer.
9. Lowered Risk of Heart Disease
High blood pressure problems are less likely to occur in breastfed babies. Babies that are breastfed in the first six months are also less likely to develop heart diseases later on in life.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Mother
With several advantages for both the child and mother, breastfeeding is highly recommended. Allowing this natural process to occur has plenty of benefits to the mother’s body such as:
1. Emotional Fulfilment and Bonding
Most Mothers feel a sense of delight and satisfaction from the emotional bonding that comes out of nursing their babies. Oxytocin, a hormone produced while nursing helps promote feelings of love and attachment with the baby. Similarly, the hormone prolactin augments the mother’s feelings and creates a need to nurture the baby.
2. Lowers Risk of Breast Cancer
Studies show that women who breastfeed a have lowered risk of breast cancer by as much as 25%. The reduced risk is in proportion to the total duration of breastfeeding done during the woman’s life. That is, women who have spent the most months breastfeeding, have the lowest risk.
3. Reduces Postpartum Problems
Breastfeeding women recover faster and easier from childbirth as hormones such as oxytocin help the uterus to return to normalcy quicker and reduce postpartum bleeding. The benefits also extend to lowering postpartum blues, and effortlessly losing the weight gained during pregnancy.
4. Lowers Risk of Ovarian Cancer
Since it delays ovulation, breastfeeding helps prevent ovarian cancer. According to researchers, the risk of cell mutation (which triggers ovarian cancer) is higher when ovulation is frequent.
5. Natural and Convenient
Breastfeeding always gives fresh milk that is safe and at the right temperature. There’s no need to heat, boil or sterilise bottles and is a hassle-free feeding method that works at any time during the day and especially in the night when you don’t have to wake up to prepare formula. It also makes it easier to go out with your baby as there’s no need to carry a bag full of supplies.
6. Cost Effective
Formula isn’t cost-effective, and depending on the brand prices can be steep. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, only requires the mother to consume a surplus of 500 calories per day to be able to feed the baby. Bottle and formula feeding also lead to more infections which increase expenditure on medical bills.
7. Convenient for Working Women
Working women who have put their babies in a daycare close by can feed them during breaks instead of hassling with formula. If a caretaker is available, a breast pump can be used to draw and store milk to be given to the baby.
8. Environmentally Friendly
Formula requires storage cans and containers, and their processing consumes energy. Eventually, they generate waste in the form of discarded bottles and packets. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is direct and does not pollute.
Breastfeeding has both physical and emotional benefits for both the mother and the baby. It is the best choice to feed the baby unless the mother cannot do so due to medical reasons.