For years, there has been much conflict as to whether the benefits of breastmilk really do outweigh formula. I could talk about this all day. There have been countless articles and studies performed on formula vs. breastmilk and their benefits. As this is just a light-hearted and casual, yet informative blog, I want to share some of this information with you.
Working with North Georgia Breastfeeding Center, I not only help mommies and babies with their breastfeeding concerns but with feeding concerns in general. There are many times that we do recommend the use of formula, whether it be to supplement baby due to mom’s low supply, give the baby an extra caloric kick, or because this is the path that mommy has chosen for her baby. I am in no way opposed to formula and view it as an essential that is needed in certain cases. However, with that being said, there is no denying that breastmilk is still best for baby. Let’s take a moment to examine some of the interesting benefits that breastmilk has to offer baby that formula cannot deliver.
1. It may lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in baby’s first year of life.
Every new parent worries about SIDS. Most of us know the current rules that are set in place to help prevent SIDS: place baby on back to sleep, keep air circulating, don’t smoke around the baby, keep the sleeping area free of blankets or pillows, etc. But did you know that breastfeeding can actually help reduce the risk of SIDS?
It is an innate response for young babies to wake from sleep every 2-3 hours. This is a self-defense mechanism to help rouse baby from a deep sleep to engage them. When babies drink breastmilk, the milk is already in a predigested state which allows it to be more easily digested and to pass from the stomach to the gut much faster than formula would. This, in turn, makes baby hungrier sooner to which baby’s response is to wake (especially at night) sooner than their formula-fed counterparts which when fed formula takes longer to digest. This is usually the reason that formula fed babies are satiated longer thus sleeping for longer timeframes, but in turn, not waking as often as they should. A baby that is not as easily roused is more susceptible to SIDS. In fact, a recent study shows that breastfed babies are 73% less likely to die from SIDS. So yes, as exhausting as it is for your breastfed baby to be waking sooner than formula fed babies, keep in mind that it is nature’s way of protecting them.
2. Breastmilk may help your child (and you!) in later years by reducing the risk of developing many medical problems.
Breastmilk fed babies have been studies over the years and it has shown that babies that were breastfed through infancy have a less likely chance to develop certain medical issues, such as becoming overweight, developing asthma, Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, Hodgkin’s Disease, leukemia, and lymphoma. Not only that, but breastfeeding is great for mom, too! Studies have also shown that the longer a mother breastfeeds, the more protection she offers herself from developing breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and ovarian cancer!
3. Breastmilk provides many antibodies that can help protect your baby.
One of the best things you can do for your baby when you are sick, is to continue to breastfeed your baby. When a mommy gets sick, her body naturally develops antibodies to fight off the illness. These antibodies are passed onto baby through her milk. This allows baby’s body to build up its own defense to mommy’s illness and usually, the baby won’t get sick at all! This is called Passive Immunity.
Years ago, doctors knew that babies that were breastfed didn’t get a sick as often as formula fed babies. These doctors believed it was because there was no bacteria in the mother’s milk as opposed to formula where the ingredients are coming into contact with bottles and mixed with water. But, even babies that were given sterile formula were still getting more illness than breastfed babies. When babies are initially born, their immune systems are not yet matured. Babies are given a “protective-punch” from mothers milk. Breastmilk provides not just antibodies, but also live cells, and protective proteins that formula cannot offer. These molecules and cells find their way to the digestive tract and help to line and protect this area by allowing disease-causing pathogens from being absorbed by the epithelium that lines the surrounding areas.
So, as you can see, breastmilk has many more benefits than just feeding the baby. The way a mother’s body can create something that supplies everything her baby needs on a nutritional, safety and medical level are just astounding. Studies are being done even today and we are constantly discovering new uses and ways that breastmilk is beneficial to both mother and baby.