The benefits of breast-feeding
Why is breast feeding encouraged so energetically?
Mother and baby bonding is quite clearly enhanced by this most natural of acts. But that is only one of the many benefits of breast-feeding.
What are the other benefits?
Human milk is natural and tailor-made for the human baby, so it has all the necessary ingredients in the right proportions.
Secondly; the act of suckling promotes contraction of the uterus and promotes its rapid reduction of size.
Thirdly, and most importantly, this milk is safe and virtually free. It is also convenient because it is readily available, clean and at the ideal temperature, thus avoiding the hassles of preparing a feed which characterize bottle feeding.
Is it true that breast-milk has a protective element for the baby?
Yes. Both colostrum and breast-milk are rich in antibodies which provide the baby with passive immunity, thus protecting him or her against a variety of infections. There is evidence also that breast-fed babies are less prone to develop allergies.
Are there any direct breast-feeding benefits to the mother?
Yes. Apart from all the above, the mother may benefit directly in a number of ways.
Firstly, it allows for a more rapid return to a pre-pregnancy weight level.
Secondly, breast-feeding has a significant contraceptive effect, as it inhibits ovulation and therefore quite significantly reduces the chance of conceiving accidentally.
Thirdly, the risk of developing breast cancer later on in life is significantly reduced by breast-feeding.
Surely, from a nutritional point of view, bottle feeding cannot be inferior to breast-feeding?
Whichever way you look at it, it is. It is true that formula preparations have been altered to be as close to human milk as possible. Cow's milk has less vitamins A, B, C, D, & E, compared to human milk. Formula preparations are fortified with these vitamins to make up for the shortfall. However, the protective antibodies found in breast-milk are of vital importance. Also protective to the baby are a natural protein called lactoferrin and lysosomes. Lysosomes are a form of protein which offers protection against a variety of bacterial and viral infections. All these cannot be found in cow's milk or formula preparations.
It appears from all this that bottle-feeding is dangerous?
Dangerous is an overstatement. However, it is important that a woman who can breast-feed is encouraged to do so by being made aware of the facts. However, if a woman is unable or unwilling to breast-feed then she should not be made to feel guilty. Formula preparations are an excellent substitute for breast-milk, even if not as good.