Breastfeeding possesses multiple health benefits both for the baby and the mother. Apart from being the most appropriate and protective diet for the newly born baby, it is also beneficial for the mother. Breast milk is crucial for the growth and development of the newborn and is an invaluable source of nutrition for infants.
Under certain circumstances, when breast milk is unavailable for feeding to the newborn, WHO and UNICEF recommend donor breast milk as the best alternative for mother's milk.
Planning a sufficient needful diet for your baby is worrisome. It is difficult for almost every mother to choose between breast milk and formula milk. Despite the multiple benefits of breast milk, some factors might let you consider formula milk for feeding your baby.
What Should You Know About Breastfeeding?
Nursing your baby is a beautiful experience for both mother and baby. It provides appropriate nourishment to the baby and develops a unique bonding experience that many mothers cherish.
The first milk secretion from the mother’s breast after delivery contains colostrum which is essential for the baby as it contains immunoglobulins that provide efficient protection from infection and even reduce the risk of catching systemic diseases in the future.
Breast milk consists of multiple macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and various biologically active substances. Apart from the multiple nutritional components, it comprises antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds, and specific immune cells. Breast milk also contains IgA, IgM, and IgG immunoglobulins.
However, every mother comes across challenges while breastfeeding their babies. The most commonly encountered breastfeeding problems include sore nipples, low milk supply, infectious disease, breast engorgement, and lactation mastitis.
What Do You Need to Know About Formula Feeding?
Commercially manufactured infant formulas are a great source of nutrition for the baby. It is a nutritious diet alternative to breast milk which contains some vitamins and nutrients that even breastfed babies need to take sometimes from other supplements.
Recent advancements in the preparation of formula milk reveal that these commercial formulas very closely duplicate to mother's milk. In addition, it is prepared under sterile conditions using a complex combination of proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins, which is impossible to make at home. Hence, under circumstances when you cannot breastfeed your baby, it would be best to use only commercially prepared formula milk for feeding your baby rather than trying to make your own at home. Manufactured formula milk lacks antibodies that are present in breast milk. So, the formula does not have any added protection against infections and illnesses. Other complexities associated with formula milk include the extra cost involved with the bottles and the possibility of making the baby gassy and constipated.
Why Is Breast Milk Better Than Formula Milk?
Breast milk secretion varies initially every week according to the growing need of the infant. The other factors supporting breast milk over formula milk are:
1. Immune Response: Breastfed babies are known to have a better immune response and have fewer infections and hospitalizations than infants dependent on formula milk. During breastfeeding, various antibodies and other germ-fighting factors are transferred from a mother to her baby to strengthen the immune system. Hence it decreases the baby's chances of getting many infections, including the following:
2. Digestion: Some studies on breastfeeding and formula-fed infants reveal that breastfed infants have less difficulty digesting than formula-fed infants. This is because breast milk tends to be easily digested, and hence breastfed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
3. Vitamin D: Breast milk naturally contains many vitamins and minerals that are the requirement of the newborn. The American Academy of Pediatrics Association (AAP) recommends that all babies have vitamin D supplements during the first two months and continue until a baby consumes enough vitamin D-fortified formula or milk after one year of age.
4. IQ: Some studies report the tendency to have higher IQ in babies if breastfeeding is appropriately attempted during the initial days of life than those babies who consumed more formula milk.
5. Benefits to Breastfeeding Mothers: Apart from having multiple benefits to the newborn, breastfeeding is known to minimize the chances of breast and ovarian cancer in the mother. In addition, it also speeds up the recovery process of the mother.
6. Weaning: Breastfeeding mothers’ food must include varieties of food items and a well-balanced diet. A mother needs extra calories (300-500 calories) during the lactation period per day. It ultimately introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers' breast milk, which has different flavors depending on what their mothers eat. It makes solid food easily accepted while weaning.
7. Convenience: Breastfeeding is more convenient and readily available than formula milk. Additionally, it is always fresh to feed, and there is no additional cost involved with breast milk.
8. Emotional Connection: Breastfeeding maintains skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby which helps the mother to develop an emotional attachment with the newborn.
9. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: It is known to minimize the risk of infant death syndrome in the first year of the infant's life.
It is universally accepted by all health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the World Health Organization (WHO), that breast milk is the best nutritional supplement for infants during the first six months of their life. This is because it fulfills all the child's essential requirements for their growth and development. Despite various advances and research in formula milk composition, human milk still remains the best nutritional supplement for the baby for the first six months.