Thanks to a controversial Time photo, the subject of breastfeeding is very much in the news again. Although it’s my personal opinion that the photo in question goes a little too far, as an advocate for breastfeeding, I’m grateful for anything that encourages an open dialogue.
Benefits of Colostrum in Breast Milk
The colostrum that’s produced during pregnancy and immediately after giving birth is known as liquid gold – and for very good reason. Colostrum is rich in the essential nutrients and antibodies that protect babies. Colostrum changes to mature milk after three to five days and contains the exact amount of fat, sugar, water, protein, nutrients and antibodies to guard newborns against disease and illness and allows them to grow and thrive.
Breast Milk Fights Disease
Breast milk is also easier for newborns to digest (particularly premature babies) than formula. The proteins contained in formula are made from cow’s milk and it takes time for babies to adjust to digesting them. Formula doesn’t contain the ingredients that breast milk does and therefore doesn’t protect babies from illness. In fact, according to the government, formula-fed babies are more likely to experience diarrhea, ear infections, asthma, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Benefits to Mothers
Cost is a huge factor when deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed. Formula and feeding supplies can easily cost upwards of $1,500 per year. And, since formula doesn’t provide the health benefits that breast milk does, health care costs are a factor. Mothers miss less time from work caused by their baby’s illness.
Because of the fat content in breast milk, many mothers experience a more rapid weight loss after giving birth than those who opt for formula feeding. Breastfeeding is also linked to a lower risk in health problems in mothers too. Women who breastfeed lessen their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and post partum depression. Experts are also currently looking into the positive effects of breastfeeding and osteoporosis.
Breastfeeding Benefits Society
According to WomensHealth.gov, Society also benefits when mothers breastfeed. Recent research shows that if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented. The United States would also save $13 billion per year — medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.
And, as mentioned above, breastfeeding also contributes to a more productive workforce since mothers miss less work to care for sick infants. Employer medical costs are also lower.
Breastfeeding is also better for the environment. There’s less trash and plastic waste compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies.
And, even during emergencies and natural disasters, breastfeeding mothers can continue feeding their babies efficiently and safely, unlike those who choose to formula feed.
Clearly breastfeeding has a tremendous amount of benefits for mothers, babies, the environment and society in general. It’s also a personal choice that each woman should feel comfortable making without fear of condemnation, failure or ridicule. Talking to your personal physician or pediatrician is a great first step. There are also many community support groups available to help.