Formula fed babies are just as healthy as breastfed babies, so why all the breast milk is better hype?
I know many women say that their formula-fed babies are just as healthy as breastfed babies, so what is the difference? I am not against formula feeding. I did formula feed two of my children, one fully and one with supplements. There are certain situations when breastfeeding does not work, and formula becomes necessary. And then there are those who figure it is just as good as breast milk or they don't even want to try breastfeeding. We can all make that choice for our babies, but I find that a lot of the choices made come from being misinformed.
Here are just a few reasons why women may choose to breastfeed.
Components of Breast Milk
I could expand more on each component of breast milk, but I may do that
later in a future post. For the time being, I will briefly explain the
Breast milk is made up of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, white blood cells, immunoglobulins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and hormones. The proteins (whey and casein) in breast milk are easily digestible for a newborn baby. The greater percentage of whey in breast milk allows the baby to digest the milk more easily, which means less spitting up, burping, and reflux, and no constipation. Some babies can get reflux, even if they are breastfed, but it is less common in breastfed babies.
Many brands of formula attempt to recreate what breast milk can offer by adding DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) and other vitamins. While some nutrients are artificially recreated, there are some things that formula just cannot provide. Formula cannot supply a baby with the immunological benefits of breast milk, as breast milk contains live white blood cells. This means that the baby is receiving vital immunities to things in the environment. Formula is made from "dead" materials; hence, there can be no live cells to offer immunological benefits.
Breast milk contains natural antibiotic properties, which make breast milk sterile, whereas formula is not. There is no sure way to ensure that formula is kept sterile. From the time it is manufactured to the time when it is brought home and opened; it cannot be kept fully sterile. This introduces the possibility of bacteria growing in the formula.
Breast milk is also continuously changing to meet the individual needs of the baby, whereas formula remains the same.
I could create an exhaustive list of studies done on the benefits of breastfeeding, but for now, I will link to a few studies and resources for more information.
One study, titled "The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood," found that
babies who are breastfed have improved cognitive outcomes and a less chance of obesity at 2 and 4.5 years of age. Babies that were breastfed for at least six months had increased motor scores at nine months of age. (Belfield, and Rashad Kelly)
In 2006, a study published in Pediatrics found that babies who were breastfed exclusively for six months had a decreased risk of pneumonia and respiratory infections. (Chantry, Howard, and Auinger 425-432)
There are also maternal benefits to breastfeeding, such as reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Here is an extensive list of studies on the benefits of breastfeeding.
Why breastfeeding is important-- infant and maternal benefits
Of course there are ways to bond with a baby without breastfeeding. You can hold or rock your baby, and you can play with and talk to the baby. Yet, a mother who has breastfed knows what the breastfeeding bond is like. There is nothing that can really describe the feeling of seeing your baby content and satisfied after nursing, knowing that you provided your baby with everything he or she needed. You can take a fussy baby and immediately calm him or her by nursing. There is something special about the breastfeeding bond, but perhaps only a breastfeeding mom would understand.
Breast milk is continuously being produced, as long as the milk is being removed from the breast. The amount of breast milk a woman has depends on supply and demand. If the baby removes milk from the breast, more will replace it. This means that there is always milk for the baby. There is no mixing formula, heating it up, washing and sterilizing bottles, or anything that goes along with formula feeding. Breast milk is at the perfect temperature and ready to serve, anytime of the day or night.
Breast milk is definitely cheaper, since it does not have to be purchased. The mom does need to eat well and keep herself hydrated, but that is something she needs to do anyway. If a woman does not receive financial assistance for purchasing formula, she may spend anywhere from one to two thousand dollars per year on it.
Belfield, Clive, and Inas Rashad Kelly. "The Benefits of Breastfeeding Across the Early Years of Childhood." National Bureau of Economic Research. (2011): n. page. Web. 30 Dec. 2011. <http://www.nber.org/papers/w16496>.
Caroline, Cynthia Howard, and Peggy Auinger. "Full Breastfeeding
Duration and Associated Decrease in Respiratory Tract Infection in US
Children." Pediatrics. 117.2 (2006): 425-432. Web. 30 Dec. 2011.
Sears, . "Comparison of Human Milk and Formula." Dr. Sears.
N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Dec 2011.
"What's In Breast Milk?." American Pregnancy. N.p., Oct 2011. Web. 30 Dec 2011. <http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/whatsinbreastmilk.html>.