Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege
Although breastfeeding has become increasingly accepted in recent
years, there is still much controversy over breastfeeding in America.
Issues range from how long one should breastfeed to where it is
acceptable to do. But one issue that needs no further debate is
whether it is healthier to breastfeed or formula-feed your baby--overwhelmingly,
the answer is breastfeed! What's more is that breastfeeding
is not only good for the baby--it's good for mom too.
Breastfeeding Builds Your Baby's
Newborns are still developing and do not have a mature immune system
to protect them from illness. Antibodies, or immune molecules, in
a mother's breast milk are transferred to the baby, giving
them immunities to illnesses that the mother is immune to. The converse
is also true--if your newborn is exposed to a germ, she will transfer
it back to the mother while nursing. The mother's body will
then make antibodies to that particular germ and transfer them back
to the baby at the next feeding.
Studies have also shown that babies who are breastfed exclusively
have better functioning immune systems in the long-term as well.
Formula-fed babies do not get the same
immune boost and have higher rates of:
- Middle ear infections
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Urinary tract infections
- Necrotizing enterocolitis, a digestive tract disorder that is
a leading killer of premature infants
Breastfed infants, on the other hand,
have added protection against:
- Heart disease
- Immune system cancers such as lymphoma
- Bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Asthma and allergies
- Respiratory infections
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Breastfeeding Improves Baby's Brain
The nutritional properties of breast milk are not only good for
the newborn's immune system, they are also good for the brain.
Breastfed infants tend to have higher intelligence than formula-fed
infants. This may be due to certain compounds found in breast milk,
including omega-3 fatty
For instance, one study found that the
verbal IQ of 7- and 8-year-old children who had been breastfed was
about 10 points higher than those who were not. Another 18-year
study of over 1,000 children found that those who were breastfed
had higher intelligence and greater academic achievement than children
who were formula-fed as babies.
It is interesting to note that babies who are breastfed naturally
spend more time in what is known as the "quiet alert"
state, which is not only soothing for parents but also it is the
state most conducive to the newborn's learning.
Breastfeeding Reduces Obesity
Breast milk contains a protein that could reduce the risk of obesity
later in life. In fact, the longer a child is breastfed, the lower
their risk of obesity, according
to a study by U.S. researchers. The protein affects the body's
processing of fat.
Breastfeeding Helps Babies Emotionally
Babies have an intense need to be held and one of the most comforting
things for a newborn is the physical act of nursing. Leaving a baby
alone with a bottle is not emotionally satisfying to the child and
does not make them feel safe or secure.
Breastfeeding also promotes bonding between mother and baby in
a way that bottle-feeding cannot. Most women naturally feel a strong
desire to hold their baby and there are physical and emotional reasons
for this. Breastfeeding ensures that mother and baby have some intimate
time together and actually stimulates the mother's release
of the oxytocin hormone, which is known to promote maternal behavior.
Reduces Mom's Risk of Cancer and
Other Health Conditions
Breastfeeding is a mutually beneficial experience in that it helps
both mother and child. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk
of breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis later in life.
Moms Return to Pre-Pregnancy Weight Faster
Breastfeeding women lose weight faster than those who do not. This
is because producing milk and breastfeeding requires about 500 calories
per day. This is the equivalent of jogging about five miles! Breastfeeding
also stimulates contractions in the uterus that help it to shrink
back to its normal, pre-pregnancy size faster. It also helps to
reduce lower body fat.
Save Time and Money
Surely your primary reason for wanting to breastfeed is to help
your baby physically and emotionally, but the more material advantages
of breastfeeding are hard to ignore. If you breastfeed you don't
have to prepare bottles and formula--breast milk is always fresh
and ready to go. This will save you a substantial amount of time
at a period in your life when you will need it!
Breastfeeding also saves you the expense of buying formula, which
typically costs at least $800 per year. The savings continue to
accumulate as your child grows, as breastfed babies tend to have
fewer doctor's visits and lower overall medical expenses. One
study even found that a group of formula-fed babies had over $68,000
in health care costs for six months, compared to only $4,000 for
the breastfed group.
What to do if You Can't Breastfeed
If you still think that formula is a suitable alternative to breast
milk, consider that there are at least 400 nutrients in breast milk
that are not found in formula. That said, I understand that there
are certain conditions and circumstances that may prevent you from
being able to breastfeed. If this is the case, you can make a healthy
infant formula using
Breast milk is always the best choice though, so if it's at
all possible I encourage you to breastfeed your child. The longer
you do this, the better, but even a short time of breastfeeding
is better than none at all!
Linked To Higher IQ
Skin-to-Skin Contact With
Mom Helps Newborns
Why Is a Child's Health Often Damaged at Conception?
Beneficial Bacteria (Probiotics)
During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Helps Protect Against Eczema
The Deadly Influence
of Formula in America, Part I
Glucose Tolerance And Cholesterol Levels
Vitamin D Urged
for Breastfed, Dark-Skinned Infants