Breastmilk is an amazing thing. And the benefits of breastmilk form a long list. The more I have studied the make up of breastmilk, the more I see evidence of design. Man still hasn't, after years of trying, been able to copy the attributes of breastmilk. Though he keeps trying. Formula companies would just love to convince you that their product is equal. BUT IT ISN'T. Why is breastmilk is so superior to formula? Allow me to count the ways. (Post contains affiliate links).
It is an amazing thing to consider that Omega-3s have always been in breastmilk. Long before scientists discovered the many benefits of omegas-3 fatty acids, including anti-inflammatory effects and help with brain development, the omega-3s were there. As a creationist, this is what I would expect. God knows so much more than us finite humans. Of course they're there!
The USA just barely approved omega-3s in formula around the year 2000ish. When I was working on my Master's degree program at Loma Linda University (I graduated in late 1999), omega-3 fortified formula was available in Europe. Not so in the USA.
When I first started working as a dietitian for WIC in 2001, formula with omega-3s was brand new to the US market. Thank goodness God knew it was important long before this!
Benefits of Breastmilk – Antibodies and Immunity
Babies who breastfeed get the antibodies from their mother. This increases their ability to fight infection. In fact, it has been documented elsewhere that babies who are breastfed get sick less often. This is one of the main reasons why I pumped for 8 months with my son. I was determined that he get the benefits of breastmilk even if he couldn't latch on.
By the way, even if you breastfeed for the first few days after your baby is born, you have still helped to build her immune system. This is because just after birth, breastmilk is different and is called “colostrum.” Colostrum is thicker, which is why sometimes moms think their supply isn't there right away. Colostrum is higher in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins (antibodies) than the milk that comes later. Thus, giving your baby colostrum at the very beginning will go a LONG WAY in helping her build her immune system.
One of the reasons why it wasn't excessively difficult for me to pump for 8 months was because I lost weight. In fact, I was down to my pre-pregnant weight within a month or so of having my son. And I wasn't restricting my calories.
When you breastfeed, you use 500-1000 calories extra every day. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, the number is closer to 1000. This is compared to increased needs of 300 calories while pregnant. How's that for some benefits of breastmilk?
Risk of Postpartum Depression is Reduced
Two hormones are involved in the “letting down” process in response to your baby suckling. These two hormones are Oxytocin and Oxytocin Both hormones have a positive effect on mood. And Prolactin is the hormone that inhibits pregnancy.
Birth Control/Delay of Menstruation
Breastfeeding is not a trustworthy form of birth control. However, one of the benefits of breastmilk is that when a woman exclusively breastfeeds, she will almost always have a delay in the return of menstruation. I don't think I got my period until 1 1/2 years after my son was born, and like I said a minute ago, I breastfed/pumped for 8 months.
Less Chance of Your Child Being Overweight Later in Life
When your child breastfeeds she is in control of how much she eats. Getting milk from the breast actually requires effort and also strengthens the oral muscles. As soon as she stops suckling, the milk stops coming. Mom doesn't even have to be paying attention. Unfortunately, most nipples used with bottles have large holes, and the milk just drips into the mouth without any effort. Thus it is easy to overeat when using a bottle.
I used to think it was an old-wives' tale that our stomach stretches. But it's not. So, if your baby gets used to drinking large amounts of formula, his stomach will stretch. This will set him up for overeating later in life. With breastmilk, the baby has to work harder and he gets to decide when it's time to stop.
A note about the size of a baby's stomach.
When I worked for WIC, one of the most common issues I dealt with was people overfeeding their baby. There is no way that a newborn should be drinking 6 ounces of formula. This was amazingly common. And they would wonder why their poor baby was fussy!
A newborn baby's stomach is about the size of a marble. It isn't until the baby is about 1 month old that the stomach is big enough to hold 4 ounces. My suggestion, if you are going to bottle feed, is to use a smaller bottle. That's what I did. I used a 2 ounce bottle for my son at the beginning. And I also picked nipples that had a tiny hole so that he had to work harder to get his meal.
More Benefits of Breastmilk
Reduced Risk of Tooth Decay
This is partly related to the fact that babies often fall asleep while eating. If they fall asleep while on the breast, tooth decay is not an issue. However, if they fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth, the sugars from the formula can cause cavities.
Lower Risk of Ear Infections
Another side effect of allowing a baby to fall asleep with a bottle in his mouth is increased risk of ear infections. The formula from the bottle can leak into the ear canal and result in ear infections. Not only that, but the vacuum created by sucking on the nipple can cause irritation. If you are bottle feeding, the best thing to do is
1) Make sure you baby's head is upright when feeding the bottle.
2) Don't put your baby to bed with a bottle. Hold him while feeding him.
2) Use a positive pressure nipple that is similar to breastfeeding, like this one.
Click here for another risk factor associated with bottle feeding.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND CONCERNS ABOUT BREASTFEEDING
Is it okay to breastfeed when I'm sick?
YES!!! In fact, if you continue to breastfeed while you are sick, your baby will be getting the antibodies your body created in response to the illness. As a result, your baby will be LESS likely to get sick. Isn't that COOL?!
Why is my baby jaundiced? Should I stop breastfeeding if my baby gets jaundiced? Is this normal?
Jaundice is a common condition in all newborns. However, it tends to be more common and to last longer in breastfed infants. Jaundice is a condition caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Most infants with jaundice can continue to breastfeed as long as bilirubin levels are monitored and your child is otherwise healthy and feeding well.
If my baby gets gassy, do I need to stop breastfeeding?
No, usually there's a food in your diet that you can eliminate that will help with that.
Lactose Intolerance is Rare in Infants
According to BreastfeedingBasics.com, all babies are born with the “lactase” enzyme (the enzyme that digests the sugar lactose) in their intestine. So your baby is most likely not lactose-intolerant. Lactose intolerance usually doesn't develop until 3-4 years of age. Therefore, gassiness is probably the result of something else in your diet.
Let me know if you have any other questions about breastmilk and breastfeeding. Talk to you later! 🙂
Oh, I almost forgot, here is a DELICIOUS vegetable tomato soup my hubby made a few days ago. This is his specialty. Unfortunately, he didn't get a picture and I couldn't find one acceptable online, but suffice it to say it also looks delicious!
Why did I choose this recipe, you ask? Because vegetables are high in Folic Acid an extremely important nutrient during and after pregnancy. Of course, vegetables are good sources of vitamin A, C, magnesium, and fiber. Also, vegetable are good for your immune system. By eating soup, you are increasing your fluid intake which will help to assure you don't get dehydrated while breastfeeding.
Click here for more vegetable soup recipes
Homemade Tomato Vegetable Soup
- 1 15 ounce can No-Salt Added Tomatoes diced
- 1 Cup Carrots sliced
- 1 cup Onion chopped
- 1 cup Celery sliced
- 4 cups water
- 2 tbsp Vegetable Base Better Than Bouillon
- 1 cup purple cabbage chopped
- .5 16 oz package C&W Vegetables Don't need to thaw
- salt and pepper to taste (we didn't use any and it tasted perfect)
- Slice carrots and celery
- Chop onion and cabbage
- Pour Water into large dutch oven or sauce pot
- Add undrained tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, cabbage, vegetable base and frozen vegetables to Stock Pot
- Bring to boil and cook until vegetables are tender, about 90 minutes