Breastfeeding babies provides them with perfect nutrition, highly digestible and “custom-made” for each infant from its mothers’ breast. This fact alone is often reason enough for women to choose nursing as the method with which they feed their babies. Breastfeeding also helps to prevent many illnesses and health problems that are relatively common to babies who are fed formula from bottles. Before women write off breastfeeding as “too much hassle” or are otherwise talked out of the practice, it’s important that they are aware of what their baby will be missing without it.
High Digestibility Of Breast Milk
Protein found in breast milk is of higher quality than that found in any commercial formula, and far more digestible for babies. The fats found in breast milk are considered “self-digesting”, and will literally break themselves down into smaller particles so that babies will absorb them more easily. Nutrients in breast milk change constantly, depending on the baby’s current needs. Babies nurse voraciously at the beginning of a feeding, because the foremilk (the first half of the breast’s supply) is thirst-quenching and lower in fat content. The last half of feeding is essentially “dessert”, when the baby gets the high-fat hind milk that helps it go to sleep feeling full and content. In the event of a growth spurt, babies will get more of the hind milk that was left over from the last feeding if they are allowed to feed on-demand, and thus, get more calories that they need to grow.
Boosted Immune Systems
A woman’s “early milk” is yellowish, watery-looking, and packed full of antibodies and colostrum. Because of its deceptive appearance, women (and even some less informed health professionals in hospitals) may not understand its value to newborns, and believe instead that this first milk isn’t really “milk” and contains insufficient nutrition for babies. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Colostrum-rich milk is called “liquid gold” by leading medical authorities. It contains all the necessary nutrients to feed babies in the first days of life, and it also contains colostrum and antibodies that help to support a baby’s immune system and rid the bowels of meconium, the substance that lines a baby’s intestines before birth.
The antibodies found in breast milk help to maintain the baby’s health during an “immunity gap” between the time that the baby is in-utero and receiving antibodies from the placenta, and at six months of age when the baby’s immune system begins to start working on its own. The placental antibodies are usually used up well before the baby’s immune system has matured. Antibodies in breast milk are custom-tailored to protect the baby from germs and other agents of infection. When the baby is exposed to a potential contaminant, the mother’s body produces an antibody to counteract it. It is not unusual for an entirely family to come down with a cold, while a breastfed baby in that family barely becomes ill, if they get sick at all. The mother’s antibodies are hard at work, being provided to the baby in her breast milk to keep that baby from getting sick. Because of the generation of antibodies, the best thing a woman can do is to keep breastfeeding through most common illnesses so that the baby can get special protection from them. The antibodies found in breast milk also help to strengthen the immune system response to routine vaccinations as the baby grows.
Reduced Risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
Although SIDS is not recognized as having any one specific cause, medical professionals believe that it has much to do with babies sleeping too hard, sleeping in inappropriate positions, or some combination of the two. First and foremost, doctors believe that SIDS is related to an interruption in a baby’s breathing that occurs when they sleep too deeply and fail to awaken if they stop breathing. Babies should NOT sleep heavily, as their natural nutritional needs dictate that they should wake frequently for fluid nutrition. Bottlefed babies sleep harder to conserve energy so that they can digest formula, which is much harder to digest than breast milk. Breastfed babies sleep more lightly, digesting their milk faster and ready for another feeding.
Better Prevention of Gastrointestinal Problems
Breast milk contains a specific strain of the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri that not only helps alleviate symptoms of bowel disorders and diseases, when it is allowed to build up in a baby’s digestive system, can help to prevent these problems entirely. An exclusive diet of breast milk can help a young baby to develop healthy bacteria in its gastrointestinal tract. Formula does not contain and cannot replicate these kinds of healthy flora, as they are produced in the breast milk from the mother’s mammary glands and are live cultures that do not survive long out of the body. The very high amount of lactose found in breast milk helps promote the growth of bifidus cultures that live in the bowels, manufacturing vitamins, nutrients, and preventing the growth of unhealthy bacterial strains. It is also important to remember that babies who are purported to have a lactose intolerance to cow’s milk products will not necessarily have that same intolerance to mother’s milk, which is a complex substance created just for the baby and thus, the baby will tolerate it just fine. Cow’s milk is for baby cows. Human breast milk is for babies.
Protection Against Many Infections And Diseases
Breastfed babies are at a much lower risk of incidence for a wide variety of illnesses and infections. Because of the high content of antibodies and healthy bacteria, breastfeeding a baby helps to protect against a number of health problems, including:
– Streptococcus-based pneumonia
– Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
– Infant botulism
– Urinary tract infections
– E. coli
Additionally, children who have been breastfed are less likely than those who have been formula-fed to develop cancer, leukemia, diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. When the costs of time and money for medical care, purchasing formula, and bottle preparation are taken into account, it is evident that not only is formula feeding sub-optimal for a baby’s health and development, it is in no way more “convenient” for either mother or baby.
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