Once your child is born, you have the option of feeding them with infant formula or with breast milk, depending on your circumstances. However, if you are able to breast feed, then you should as it has been established that breast milk is the best food for babies and is, indeed, “liquid gold”.
The main benefit of breast milk is a nutritional one. This is because the breast milk contains exactly the right balance of fatty acids, water, lactose, and amino acids that the baby needs. In addition, breast milk contains at least 100 ingredients that cannot be replicated in infant formula. Babies also cannot be allergic to their mother’s milk, only have a reaction to something that the mother eats. By simply eliminating that food from her diet, the baby’s reaction will clear itself up. The breast milk contains all of the nutrients that the baby needs for at least the first six months of its life and it is the most important part of their diet past this, supplying half of their nutrients up to their first birthday and a third up to their second birthday. The colostrum, or the first milk that the baby receives after being born, is a nutritional powerhouse, and is vital for helping to protect the baby against infection.
Breastfeeding is good for the child because it promotes good jaw development. The baby has to work harder to get milk from the breast then they do to get it from a bottle and this exercise strengthens the jaw and encourages the teeth to grow in straight and healthy. Breastfeeding may also help to protect your child against allergies. As an example, eczema is significantly rarer in babies that have been breast fed. Breast feeding has also been shown to reduce the amount of ear infections that the baby gets, and also prevents the infections from recurring. Babies that are breastfed are also much less likely to suffer from diarrhea. As well, breastfed babies have better development of their eyesight, speech, jaw, and oral cavity.
Breastfed babies are healthier as the milk contains antibodies that the mother has produced. Approximately eighty percent of the cells in breast milk contain macrophages, a special type of cell that kills bacteria, fungi and viruses. Because of these macrophages, breastfed babies are protected from illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis, the flu and ear infections, to name a few. As the mother also makes antibodies to counter the diseases present in their specific environment, these antibodies are passed through the milk, helping the baby to become more resistant to disease.
Breastfeeding also affects the development of the immune system, both in the short term and in the long term. If the baby is weaned from breast milk too early, they may be more likely to contract immune-related diseases in later life. The immune system in the baby is underdeveloped and because of this, antibodies pass through the breast milk to help protect the child. These antibodies are resistant to digestion and pass through to the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems where they help to fight infectious agents.
Breastfeeding is not only advantageous to the child in their first years of life. The benefits of breastfeeding are lifelong. Some of these include: