"Breast is best."
Mothers, both new and old, have come across this slogan at some point in their journey through parenthood. How many of us, however, understand just how crucial breastfeeding is to ensure the health and happiness of our children? Even more importantly, are we truly aware of the many benefits that breastfeeding holds for both mother and child?
ProMoM, Inc., an organization devoted to the promotion of breastfeeding awareness and acceptance, offers a closer look into the numerous benefits of nursing - a look, in fact, into 101 different reasons why breast is indeed best. Included in this article are just a few of those reasons:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding
According to the AAP, "Human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes. In addition, human milk-fed premature infants receive significant benefits with respect to host protection and improved developmental outcomes compared with formula-fed premature infants… Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child."
Breast milk is more digestible than formula
"In recent years nutritionists have voiced concern about overly high levels of protein in the American diet. Since cow's milk contains about twice as much protein as human milk, formula-fed babies usually receive more protein than they need (much of it in the form of the less digestible casein). The stools of formula-fed babies are so bulky because the babies cannot absorb so much protein, and excrete the excess in their stool, whereas breast-fed babies absorb virtually 100% of the protein in human milk."
Not breastfeeding increases mother's risk of breast cancer
Many studies have shown that women who breastfeed have lower risks of developing breast cancer. Recently, data from 47 studies in 30 countries was re-examined. The study group concluded that the incidence of breast cancer in developed countries could be reduced by more than half if women had the number of births and lifetime duration of breastfeeding that have been common in developing countries until recently. According to the analysis, breastfeeding could account for almost two-thirds of this estimated reduction in breast cancer incidence.
Formula Feeding is associated with lower I.Q.
Human breast milk enhances brain development and improves cognitive development in ways that formula cannot. One study has found that the average I.Q. of 7 and 8 year old children who had been breastfed as babies was 10 points higher than their bottle fed peers. All of the children involved had been born prematurely and tube fed the human milk, indicating that the milk itself, not the act of breastfeeding, caused this difference in I.Q. level. Another study to support this statement was done in New Zealand. Here an 18 year longitudinal study of over 1,000 children found that those who were breastfed as infants had both higher intelligence and greater academic achievement than children who were infant-formula fed.
Breast milk is always ready and comes in a nicer package than formula does
Need we say more?
Breastfeeding satisfies baby's emotional needs and increases bonding between mother and baby
All babies need to be held. There is no more comforting feeling for an infant of any age than being held close and cuddled while breastfeeding. In fact, studies have shown that premature babies are more likely to die if they are not held or stroked. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother's body. "It is now well established that oxytocin, as well as stimulating uterine contractions and milk ejection, promotes the development of maternal behavior and also bonding between mother and offspring."
Breast milk provides perfect infant nutrition
"Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding and is species-specific; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it. The breastfed infant is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short and long-term benefits."
Not breastfeeding increases mother's risk of developing ovarian cancer
Based on the research, breastfeeding for a total of 12 to 24 months can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer by about one-third.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend it
"Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. There after, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production".
Formula feeding may increase risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Sadly, as of now, researchers have not yet discovered any one factor to account for SIDS. However, there are a number of studies showing a possible link between lack of breastfeeding and SIDS. A Swedish study has found that babies who were breastfed exclusively for less than 8 weeks had a 3 - 5 times greater risk of dying from SIDS than babies who were breastfed exclusively for four months
Breastfeeding protects baby against respiratory infections
Breastfeeding effectively protects nurslings from many life-threatening respiratory infection including those caused by rotaviruses. Studies have shown breastfed babies are less than half as likely to be hospitalized with pneumonia or bronchiolitis, and have one-fifth the number of lower respiratory tract infections compared to formula-fed infants. According to a recent meta-analysis of studies from developed countries, the risk of severe respiratory tract illness resulting in hospitalization is more than tripled among infants who are not breastfed, compared with those who are exclusively breastfed for four months.
Formula-fed babies are more at risk for obesity in later life
A study of 32200 Scottish 3 year old children found that the incidence of obesity was significantly lower among those who had been breastfed, after adjusting for socioeconomic status, birthweight and gender. Another study, this one of Czech children, found that the even older children (6 -14) who had been breastfed were less at risk for overweight/obesity. Additionally, a German study found that 4.5% of formula fed children are obese, while only 0.8% of breastfed children have this condition
Breast milk always has the right proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein
Formula companies are constantly adjusting these proportions looking for the best composition. The reality is that a mother's milk composition changes from feeding to feeding depending on the needs of her child. No formula can do that! According to the American Dietetic Association "human milk provides optimal nutrition to the infant with its dynamic composition and the appropriate balance of nutrients provided in easily digestible and bioavailable forms."
Breast milk acts like a natural tranquilizer for baby
Mother's milk contains chemicals that seem to work like "knock-out drops" for tired babies. Even if baby doesn't fall asleep, he/she will certainly calm down and become more agreeable. If you choose to breastfeed into toddlerhood, you may find that the "terrible twos" never materialize.
Breast milk provides natural pain relief for baby It's what breasts were designed for!
Breast milk actually contains chemicals that suppress pain (endorphins). Aside from this, the comfort a baby derives from being held close and suckling is remarkable. Many a bruise or scrape has been soothed away almost instantly by a few moments of nursing. If you choose to have your child vaccinated, it is a good idea to nurse immediately after he/she receives a vaccination. This soothes the hurt, as well as enhancing the vaccine's effectiveness.