Breast milk is best
It is not even so long ago, when baby formulas were almost enforced upon new moms that gave birth to a baby in a hospital because the babies were withheld from the new mom, which makes it much harder to start breast feeding their newborn child.
Fortunately times have changed because breast milk is really the best thing to give to a baby.
Breast milk protects a baby from a wide range of early childhood diseases and raise the chances that the baby will make it safely through the first year of life and thrive over the long run.
A baby will also bond much better with her mother and vice versa.
In an almost magical way, breast milk is customized to be exactly rightly formulated at the right time.
An added advantage is that breast feeding is a natural and rather easy way for most moms to lose the baby weight as breast feeding requires up to 500kcals a day.
There are many different components in breast milk that are extremely beneficial to babies’ development. Many of these cannot be found in baby milk formulas.
There are many types of immunoglobulins or antibodies found in human milk. The highest concentration is found in colostrum, the pre-milk that is only available from the breast the first three to five days of the baby’s life.
Secretory IGA, a type of immunoglobulin that protects the ears, nose, throat, and the GI tract, is found in high amounts in breast milk throughout the first year. Breast milk levels of IGA against specific viruses and bacteria increase in response to a maternal exposure to these organisms.
Another component is lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein that is found in human milk, but is not available in formulas. Lactoferrin limits the availability of iron to bacteria in the intestines, and alters which healthy bacteria will thrive in the gut. Lactoferrin has a direct antibiotic effect on bacteria such as staphylococci and E. coli.
It is found in the highest concentrations in colostrum, but persists throughout the entire first year.
Human breast milk also contains lysozyme, which is a potent digestive ingredient at a level thirty times higher than in any formula. While other components of breast milk vary widely between well-nourished and poorly nourished mothers, the amount of lysozyme is conserved, suggesting that it is very important. It has a strong influence on the type of bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract.
Human breast milk specifically encourages the growth of lactobacillaceae, which are helpful bacteria that can inhibit many of the disease-causing gram-negative bacteria and parasites. There is a striking difference between the bacteria found in the guts of breast and formula-fed infants. Breast-fed infants have a level of lactobacillus that is typically 10 times greater than that of formula-fed infants.
Breast milk is hypo-allergenic as it meant for human babies. Cows’ milk protein used in most formulas is a foreign protein. When babies are exposed to non-human milk, they actually develop antibodies to the foreign protein. Some formulas don't use cow's milk but goat's milk which is somewhat more beneficial.
A few months later, this situation is reversed and it can be very beneficial to expose an infant to foreign proteins, even to known allergens.
Breast milk also contains high amounts of carnitine. While carnitine is present in both breast milk and formula, the carnitine in breast milk has higher bioavailability. Breast-fed babies have significantly higher carnitine levels than their counterparts. Carnitine is necessary to make use of fatty acids as an energy source.
The main long-chain fatty acids DHA and arachidonic acid found in human milk are still not present in many infant formulas. These lipids are important structural components, particularly in the substance of the brain and the retina. Significantly different amounts of these ingredients have been found in the brains and retinas of breast-fed versus formula-fed infants.
Other fatty acids present in human breast milk are medium an short chain triglycierides, of which lauric acid is the main constituent.
Medium chain fatty acids aid in digestive function, improve nutrient absorption, help regulate blood sugar levels, and protect against harmful microorganisms. They also have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties that support baby’s immature immune system.
Human milk doesn't just contain fatty acids and proteins, but also a specific type of carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are complex carbohydrates that are highly abundant in human milk but not in infant formula. These oligosaccharides were previously dismissed as 'inert' because a lot of them are excreted with feces. However, oligosaccharides prove to have an important function in maintaining a healthy gut flora by protecting them against harmful bacteria. Oligosaccharides that are absorbed into the body help develop the immune system.
All in all, whenever it is possible, try to breast feed a newborn infant for as long as possible, preferably up to a year. The only major disadvantage of breast feeding is how awkward it can be when it has to be done away from home and a secluded and hygienic space cannot always be found easily.
Some tips for breastfeeding in public are to wear clothes that allow easy access to your breasts or to use a special breastfeeding blanket or sling.
It isn't possible to stay home all the time, and you should feel free to feed your baby while you are out and about. You should be proud of your commitment!
In conclusion, if despite your best efforts, your baby won't put on weight with breast milk alone, feel free to combine it with or swithc to baby formulas, since the health of a baby is what matters, or to put it differently like an advocacy group says 'Fed is Best'