Healthier, more intelligent babies with breastfeeding
Many new mothers, especially working moms, have to struggle with the decision whether to breastfeed or use formula feeding for their babies.
There is no more any argument that mother’s milk is still much better of the two options. Breast milk is even considered a natural wonder, reducing health risks for infants and babies while formula feeding may lead to various short- and long-term complications for babies.
Our doctor-experts on this—the pediatricians—highly recommend breast milk as the best nutrition for infants, hands down. Any formula milk manufacturer who argues otherwise, is just in it for the business he/she needs to protect.
A big must
It’s a big must that the infant gets the first milk that comes out of the mother’s breast, which is called colostrum, since this is filled with immune-system-boosting antibodies and other nutrients. Colostrum is actually a form of milk produced by the mammary glands of all mammals (including humans) in late pregnancy. It contains antibodies to protect the newborn against various diseases.
Newborns generally have very immature digestive systems, and colostrum delivers its nutrients in a very concentrated low-volume form. Because of its mild laxative effect, it helps pass the baby’s first stool, called meconium.
Ideally, babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months, according to pediatricians. When the baby is tried on some foods after six months, mothers are still encouraged to continue to breastfeed until the baby is at least a year old, and as long after that as both mother and child are willing.
According to Dr. Ma. Cristina C. Bernardo, head of the Lactation Center at The Medical City, exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for the first six months will reduce by about 70 percent the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in the babies. She gave a lecture during the recent Philippine Pediatric Society’s scientific meeting on optimal care for the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life.
“If the mother is not breastfeeding you don’t only have an increase in illness, you also increase the exposure of your infant to environment pathogens and food contaminants through your formula, your water and your food,” she explained.
The Agency of Healthcare and Research Quality of the United States’ Department of Health and Human Services reported that EBF for three to six months cuts to half ear infections among infants. The report added that EBF can also significantly reduce the incidence of asthma and atopic dermatitis, so if there’s a history of these illnesses in either or both parents, the mother is strongly advised to breastfeed.
Exposure to cow’s milk protein was attributed to be a risk factor for type 1 diabetes mellitus (insulin-requiring). Avoiding the use of cow’s milk at an early age reduces the risk of acquiring type 1 diabetes of up to 30 percent, while risk for type 2 diabetes (noninsulin-requiring) may be reduced by up to 40 percent.
Benefits from breast milk
The following have been reported as benefits from breast milk:
It provides natural antibodies to combat ear and other infections;
It’s easier to digest for the baby than formula milk; hence, it causes less gassiness or intestinal colic in the babies;
It may help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of the baby’s life;
It may also help develop the child’s intelligence, based on studies showing higher levels of cognitive function in breastfed babies;
Breast milk may even help reduce the baby’s risk of subsequently being overweight or obese; of developing asthma, type 1 and type 2 diabetes; or of having high cholesterol, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia and lymphoma.
Mothers can also benefit from breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding moms have been shown to have a reduced risk of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and ovarian cancer; not to mention the amazing bonding experience she can have with her baby every time she nurses him or her.
For working moms, breast milk can also be pumped into a feeding bottle, which will allow the father and other family members to participate in the feeding of the baby.
To promote increase in breast milk, breastfeeding moms should take care of themselves, by eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of fluids and having adequate rest.
Breast milk is best for our babies. Cow’s milk is best for baby cows.