Feeding the Baby – Advantages of Breast Milk Over Formula

The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your new baby is a very personal one, and will depend on your circumstances.

The general consensus is that 'breast is best', but of course this is not always possible for a variety of reasons.

Here are some points you may wish to consider to help you decide which is best for you and your new baby.

Formula Milk:

Formula milk is higher in protein content, but the protein found in breast milk has a higher digestibility and assimilation, and therefore less is required.

Breast Milk:

Breast milk has a higher carbohydrate content.

Breast milk contains Bifidus factor – beneficial bacteria to help with the baby's immune system.

Bifidus factor discourages the growth of pathogenic organisms.

Breast milk in the first few days contains colostrum, which contains all the necessary immune factors, plus growth factors and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Colostrum can fight and remove bacterial invaders in the intestinal tract and is good for the lungs, throat and intestines.

Did You Know?

Every new-born baby has a 'leaky gut'. This is natural and is as nature intended.

In time, this gut must 'heal', or become less leaky. If it does not heal, then undigested proteins can cross the gut and cause allergic reactions. Normally this is not a problem, because one of the ingredients naturally found in breastmilk (Secretory Immunoglobulin-A, or sIgA for short) helps to seal the leakiness, or permeability.

This is one of the reasons why breast milk helps the baby develop a healthy immune system.

If the naturally leaky gut in the new-born is not 'healed' (which happens naturally with breastfeeding), then the proteins from cows milk may cross the leaky gut and set up an immune reaction. This is why so many babies do better on breast milk.

Other important benefits of breastmilk are:

  • It has been shown that babies or children who are fed cows milk too early can develop Type 1 diabetes.
  • Breast milk has a laxative effect, which encourages the passage of first bowel movements, preventing newborn jaundice.
  • Formula fed babies usually have harder and more odorous stools than breast fed babies.
  • The minerals from breast milk are better absorbed than minerals in formula milk. The unabsorbed portions of minerals can change the balance of bacteria in the newborn's gut, which creates greater opportunity for dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria).

Studies:

Twenty different studies, including two controlled trials, suggest several advantages of longer-term exclusive breast feeding. When babies were fed exclusively with breast milk for six months (ie no solids or liquids besides human milk, other than vitamins and medications), they had a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection than those who were exclusively breastfed for only three to four months. The mothers lost their maternal weight more readily after the birth and delayed the return of menstrual periods with the longer breastfeeding period. There were no adverse effects on the baby's growth, although in developing countries there was some incidence of reduced iron levels.

A study carried out at the Institute of Child Health in London found that babies who received a "low nutrient" diet rather than a "nutrient rich" diet in their first days were healthier as adolescents. This may be of some comfort to mothers who usually produce very small amounts of milk in the first few days after birth. Perhaps nature knows what it's doing?

What do you think?

Perhaps nature knows what it's doing?

Conclusion:

If you do not think breast feeding is for you, do not dismiss it out of hand – chat with your midwife, lactation consultant or health visitor about it. The alternative option is to add colostrum powder to the formula feed.