Breastfeeding helps build stronger immunity and reduced exposure to infectious agents. Breast milk contains long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids known to be important for brain growth and development. Mothers who breastfeed tend to be at lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It is also easier to digest for the baby.
Curejoy Expert Dipti Mothay Explains:
Breast-feeding is the recommended way to feed a newborn. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for six months to about a year, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding along with complementary foods for at least the first two years of life.
The Advantages Of Breastfeeding Over Formula Feeding
According to research the superiority of breastfeeding over alternative feeding methods for all of these outcomes becomes ever clearer. These benefits come with additional economic benefits for the household, the health system, employers, and society.
Morbidity and Mortality
The greatest and most obvious benefits of breastfeeding are for the immediate health and survival of the infant. Rates of diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, otitis media, and other infections, as well as deaths due to these diseases, are all lower in breastfed than in non-breastfed infants. These benefits, resulting from stronger immunity and reduced exposure to infectious agents, are greatest in younger infants and where hygiene and sanitation are poor (1).
Intellectual and Motor Development
Studies confirm that children who are breastfed do better on tests of intellectual and motor development than children who are not breastfed. Unlike breast milk substitutes, breast milk contains long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids known to be important for brain growth and development. The unique physical contact between mother and infant provided by breastfeeding also is thought to provide psychosocial stimulation and bonding that may have developmental benefits (2).
Initiation of breastfeeding immediately after delivery stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps to contract the uterus, expel the placenta, and reduce postpartum bleeding. Breastfeeding also delays the return of fertility, thus reducing exposure to the maternal health risks associated with short birth intervals. In the longer term, mothers who breastfeed tend to be at lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer (1).
Easier to Digest
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast milk is easier to digest compared to formula, making it the perfect food for a baby’s immature digestive system. This article on Composition of breast milk and comparison with cows and standard formula milk lists down the following reasons:
- Human milk contains a non-specific bile salt stimulated lipase which helps the infant in digesting fats.
- Human milk contains a higher whey protein to casein ratio. Whey protein helps in formation of softer gastric curd, reduces gastric emptying time and facilitates lactose synthesis.
- Lactose in human milk facilitates easier calcium and iron absorption.
- The vitamin and mineral concentrations in human milk are better adapted for infant needs and are therefore absorbed better.
Apart from being the safest and healthiest infant feeding method, breastfeeding is also the least expensive. For many poor households, the prohibitive cost of breast milk substitutes puts this option completely out of reach. For others, the impact of formula purchases on the household budget can be crippling (3).
Although experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. Depending on the circumstances, various factors might lead you to consider formula-feeding. If you’re considering formula-feeding, do your research so that you can make an informed decision. The focus should be on nourishing and nurturing your baby.
- Quantifying the Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Summary of the Evidence- Natalia C V et al.1992
- Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis- James W Anderson et al.1999
- The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis. By Jon Weimer