During pregnancy, all I seemed to hear about breastfeeding was that ‘Breast is Best’, no one ever explained to me why nursing my baby would be beneficial and although I knew a little about the risks of not breastfeeding, there is much, much more to breastfeeding than I ever thought. Breast milk is truly amazing.
Incidentally, breast is not the best, way to feed our children, it is the normal way human babies should be fed.
Unlike baby formula, breast milk is custom made for your baby, no two mothers produce identical milk. Your body produces milk that contains all the nutrients your baby needs through every stage of their growth and development.
Studies have shown that breastfed babies are healthier in general than babies fed formula. Most people are aware that a new born baby receives important antibodies from their mothers first milk, colostrum, but did you also know that a mothers immune system is always on the look out for illness and infections? For example, should a mother develop an illness such as a cold or tummy bug, her body produces antibodies, which are passed on to her baby through her breast milk thus helping to prevent her baby from catching the illness.
The system also works in reverse. Should a baby catch a bug, the germs are passed through into the mother’s body during nursing. Her body then produces antibodies, locally within the breast, which are passed back to the baby. This is a system of ‘specialised programming’, with the nursing mother making antibodies on demand to germs that challenge their baby. Clever stuff, and something that baby formula will never be able to replicate.
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Studies have also shown that formula fed babies are at greater risk from developing certain health problems then breast fed babies. Some of these health concerns include:
breast milk contains living substances that help line an infants gut. This forms a barrier and helps to protect against harmful bacteria and viruses.
The feeding action of a breastfed baby is different to that of a baby fed via bottles. The action of a breast fed baby assists in the opening of the Eustachian tube (the tube between the back of the throat and the ear). Research indicates that breast feeding may help prevent the middle ear infections from developing.
A baby fed artificial milk is more likely to become obese in later life. A breastfed baby is able to control the amount of milk they are consuming, also milk does not constantly flow throughout a breast feed, there are pauses between letdowns, which gives time for the stomach to recognise that it is full. As a result, a breast fed baby is well aware when they have had enough and stop feeding, to prevent themselves becoming uncomfortably full (that feeling that we are all too aware of when we eat too much!).
With bottle feeding, the baby looses control over the amount of milk they take in. Unlike the breast, bottle teats provide the baby with a constant flow of milk, which does not give the stomach time to realize it is full, causing a baby to become overfull. Also, a parent can unwittingly carry on feeding a baby that has already had enough. The baby then becomes used to the over-full feeling and expects it every time, a habit that may be learned for life, leading to continual overeating.
A studies suggest that babies fed formula are more susceptible to allergies including eczema and asthma.