One of the most important ways that you can promote your child’s health is to breastfeed. The benefits to breastfeeding and risks of formula are so well known that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding thereafter with the introduction of complimentary foods for at least the first year of life or for as long as mother and child desire (WHO and UNICEF recommend up to 2 years and beyond).
- Perfectly matched nutrition throughout the child's growth and development. Breast milk composition changes as the child grows. Formula is the same composition from birth to one year of age; thus, formula fed infants must consume more quantity during a feeding as they grow to receive the needed nutrition for their developmental age.
- Foods and spices in mom's diet flavor the breast milk and acclimate baby to a variety of flavors. Formula fed infants receive the same flavor each feeding from birth until one year of age.
- Protection from food allergies and reduced incidence of eczema, wheezing and colic.
- Formula increases the risk of obesity (remember, as a child grows, they must consume more formula to get the required amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, etc.), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), childhood cancers, diabetes and asthma. Formula fed infants have a higher incidence of hospitalizations in the first year of life.
- Increases cognition. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have higher IQs than formula fed infants and the brain composition of a breastfed infant differs from that of a formula-fed infant.
- Decreases risk of tooth decay.
- Promotes facial development, enhances speech and oral development.
Benefits for Mama
- Causes uterine contractions after birth to reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.
- Aids uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size faster.
- Reduces risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
- Reduces risk of Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and obesity.
- Promotes weight loss.
- Financial savings from cost of formula and supplies, doctor's visits, medications and time-off from work. Formula can cost $1500 per year or more in the first year of life!
- Increased child spacing due to menstruation suppression (also known as lactational amenorrhea). Learn more by reading Breastfeeding & Preventing Pregnancy.
- Convenient. Breast milk is always at the perfect temperature and is readily available.
Breastfeeding also has economical and environmental benefits. According to a recent AAP study, "If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance)." Breastfed infants are healthier than their formula-fed counterparts which means less time off of work for parents to care for an ill child and increased productivity. Breastfeeding reduces pollution by decreasing the use of resources and energy required to produce, process, package, distribute, promote and dispose of materials created by the manufacture and use of formula.
Breastfeeding your infant has immediate benefits for the entire family and these benefits can last a lifetime. Remember, every ounce counts!
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|Why Breastfeeding is the Best Feeding|
AAP (2012). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.
Bartick, M & Reinhold, A. (2009). The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis
Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, Structured Abstract. May 2007. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2011) The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding
World Health Organization (2007). Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding
Author : Diba Tillery RN, BSN, IBCLC, CPST