Breast Feeding vs Infant Formula
You’ve probably heard the term “breast is best” with regards to choosing whether to breastfeed or try formula feeding your infant.
Most of us instinctively realize that feeding babies breast milk has supported infant health for millennia, long before such a thing as formulas were even thought of. Nature has provided an elegant means for mothers to nourish their children in a way that’s healthy, convenient, and far less work than formula feeding.
Yet you may wonder, is breast milk really that much better for a baby than being formula-fed?
Let’s take a look.
In this article:
Supporting Your Baby’s Health
Breastfeeding is crucial for supporting an infant’s health.
It protects against:
- Weight issues
- Metabolic syndrome, which is a group of factors - for example, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high Fat Storing Hormone - that raises your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
As well, breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. When breastfeeding, antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from a mother to her baby and strengthen the immune system. This helps lower a baby's chances of getting many infections, including:
I recommend that your child is breastfed for at least six months before adding anything else to their diet. If you can breastfeed up to two years or longer, even better!
As well, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also both strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months.
The future of an infant’s health starts with what the child is first fed. Their microbiome is so much healthier when breastfed rather than put on formula feeding.
In the human microbiome, there are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. You’re actually more bacteria than human!
The gut microbiome begins to affect your baby’s body as soon as they’re born. They’re exposed to microbes when they pass through the mother's birth canal. (And new evidence suggests that babies may come in contact with some microbes even while still in the womb.)
Some of the bacteria that first begin to grow inside your baby’s intestines are called Bifidobacteria. They digest the healthy sugars in breast milk that are important for growth, along with providing protection from infections because of their wide range of antimicrobial properties.
But what happens when you feed formula?
Infant Formula’s Pitfalls
Infant formulas are filled with undesirable ingredients such as:
Synthetic vitamins: synthetic vitamins are made by processes not remotely similar to how plants and animals create them. Thus, they aren’t the same form as any found in nature. Nor are they as bioavailable, absorbable, or usable. Your baby’s body likely doesn’t recognize them, they’re hard on the kidneys, and the body can often treat them as toxins.
Corn syrup: fructose from high fructose corn syrup is easily converted to fat; hence, the potential weight problems for your infant. The human body has not evolved to properly handle high amounts of fructose.
Soy products: infant formulas contain soy protein powder. Researchers have found concerning health effects for infants fed soy formula. They include early onset of puberty in females and alterations in the development of breast tissue, which may be linked to the estrogen-like compounds in soy.
As well, the formula increases an infant’s Fat Storing Hormone levels and sets them up for potential Fat Storing Hormone resistance - a pre-diabetic state.
I’m sure you’re with me on this one: infant formula isn’t as healthy for your baby as breast milk.
And you don’t want to miss this next part.
Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom
Babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from breastfeeding. A mother who breastfeeds releases hormones in her body, such as:
Prolactin, which produces a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows her to relax and focus on her child; and, Oxytocin, which promotes a strong sense of love and attachment between them.
As well, mothers who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily.
Oxytocin acts to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly, and it can reduce postpartum bleeding.
Studies show that women who have breastfed experience reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. And other studies have shown that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, help avoid rheumatoid arthritis, and lower the mother’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
On the practical side of things, moms who breastfeed also report having more energy during the day and feeling less exhausted than formula-feeding moms. They don’t have to spend time washing and sterilizing bottles, and mixing or warming up the formula. Breast milk is always available and at just the right temperature for their baby Amazing, isn’t it? Breastfeeding benefits your baby and you too.
Now You Know Why Breastfeeding Really Is Best
Now you know why advocates of breastfeeding - including me - truly believe that “breast is best” for your infant.
Millions of healthy babies have been, and continue to be, raised on breast milk as their first food. Your milk is designed to support your baby’s health so they can thrive. It contains none of the problematic ingredients found in formula.
And as a new mom, you’ve got to be excited about the idea of having more time and energy because both of those are in short supply when you have an infant!
I encourage you to choose breast feeding, both to increase the chances of setting up your infant for a healthy life and to support your own health too.
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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.