Breast Is Best
“Human breast milk contains at least one hundred ingredients not found in cow’s milk and that cannot be exactly duplicated in commercial formulas” (Eisenburg 3). As a baby grows and changes, breast milk automatically individualizes itself for each infant. The nutrients in breast milk alter themselves to fit the baby’s needs. Breast milk is more easily digested than cow’s milk or formula. “The amount of protein in mother’s milk (1.5%) is lower than in cow’s milk (3.5%) (Brockport 1), making it gentler on the infant’s stomach. Soy milk formulas are even further in composition from what nature intended. Brockport also points out that “an infant that has been breast fed is less likely to become overweight and it lowers the chance of obesity later in life” (2).
Virtually no baby is allergic to breast milk, while “beta-lactoglobulin, a
substance contained in cow’s milk can trigger an allergic reaction which can be life threatening” (Denmark 1). Some suspect this to be the cause of certain cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Denmark states that “for every eighty-seven artificially fed babies who die from SIDS, only three breast fed babies die from SIDS” (1).
Nursed babies are almost never constipated because of the easier digestibility of breast milk. Breast fed babies are less likely to suffer from colic, gas, and excessive spitting up. They also rarely have diarrhea-since breast milk seems to destroy some diarrhea causing organisms and to encourage the growth of beneficial flora in the digestive tract, which further discourages digestive upset. Large amounts of sodium are difficult for a baby’s kidneys to handle. Breast milk contains one-third the mineral salts of cow’s milk, thus making it gentle to the kidneys. There is less phosphorous in breast milk as well. The higher phosphorus content of cow’s milk is linked to a decreased calcium level in the formula fed infant’s blood.
Breast fed babies are far less likely to become ill during the first year than formula fed babies. ” The transfer of immune factors in breast milk and in the pre-milk substance, colostrum, provides partial protection. Every time breast fed infants suckle at their mother’s breast from the first time to the last; they are getting a healthy dose of anti-bodies to bolster their immunity to
Breast fed babies are well-nourished since breast feeding works by supply and demand. The more the baby nurses the greater the mother’s milk production. Overall, babies that are breast fed have less health problems than babies that are artificially fed. “They have three times fewer ear infections, five times fewer urinary tract infections, five times fewer serious illnesses and seven times fewer allergies. Babies who are fed mother’s milk exclusively, for at least their first twenty-six weeks, are six times less likely to develop lymphoma (a type of cancer) in childhood, and babies breast fed for at least one year are only half as likely to develop diabetes” (Sears 41).
Breast milk can begin a lifetime of good health for a baby. As adults, people who were breast fed have: less asthma, diabetes, fewer skin disorders, fewer allergies, lowered risk of heart attack due to lower cholesterol levels, fewer ulcers, less Crohn’s disease, and protection from certain chronic liver diseases.
Breast milk encourages proper development. It promotes “good jaw development”, which has an advantage to proper tooth development and alignment, and “active use of mouth and tongue while breast-feeding encourages proper speech development. Switching baby from right to left arm
while feeding promotes balanced eye muscles” (Dermer 1). In addition, Dermer states that “breast milk enhances structural development of the eye and allows growth and development of baby’s brain and central nervous system(2). Recent studies show higher IQ scores for breast fed children, directly correlated with the length of time they were breast fed. Aside from the nutritional, physical, and mental advantages of breast feeding, the breast fed baby tends to be happier and more confident.
Obvious are the breast feeding advantages to the infant, but what about
for the mother? When a mother breast feeds her baby, they bond. The skin-to-skin contact and interaction promotes bonding and enhances understanding and acceptance. A study from a developing country found that when breast feeding rates were increased among mothers with a significant abandonment rate, fewer of these mothers abandoned their babies. Breast feeding also encourages feelings of peace, satisfaction, relaxation, and closeness.
Immediately after birth, the baby’s sucking causes repeated bursts of oxy-toxin to be released which in turn contracts the uterus. This protects the mother from postpartum hemorrhaging as well as helping the uterus to return to its normal size, which ultimately aides the mother in returning to her pre-pregnancy weight. Mothers who breast feed are at a lower risk for breast cancer. Eisenburg tells us that “women nursing for a lifetime total of two years lower
their risk before menopause by forty percent. Nursing for six years lowers their risk before menopause by sixty-six percent, and seven years of nursing lowers the risk of breast cancer throughout a woman’s lifetime to almost zero”(55). Breast feeding also lowers the risk of other cancers such as ovarian and uterine cancers. On a lighter note, let us not forget God’s natural breast augmentation which enhances the breasts appearance far more deftly than any surgeon’s hand.
“Breast feeding exclusively, without solids or supplements, delays the onset of ovulation and monthly menstrual cycles” (Dermer 1), which contributes significantly to family planning and child-spacing. In doing this, the mother is practicing the lactactional amenorrhea method which is over ninety-eight percent effective in preventing pregnancy the first six months postpartum. The level of protection then decreases in relation to the intensity and frequency of breastfeeding. In Senegal, where mothers breast feed for an average of nineteen months, and in Bangladesh, where mothers breast feed an average of thirty-one months, births are at least two years apart. The child-spacing effect of breast feeding is especially relevant to women for whom contraception is unaffordable, unavailable, or unacceptable.
Breast milk is readily available and convenient, no bottles to warm or formula to mix. In contrast, reliance on bottle-feeding is particularly risky for families with low incomes and limited access to clean water and fuel. Too
often, contamination occurs when bottles cannot be properly sterilized, and malnutrition results when babies are bottle-fed liquids such as diluted juices or teas.
The economics of breast-feeding are also important to consider. Breast-
feeding saves families time and money that would be spent on purchasing infant formula, bottles, health care, and fuel. For example, “the average cost of feeding a six-month old baby is eight hundred and fifty-five dollars for one year” (Brockport 3), using powdered formula. Concentrated and ready to use formulas cost even more. This is equal to at least the average household’s monthly per capita income in many developing countries. On the average, families spend two hundred dollars in health care claims for the average one year old artificially fed baby. Because breast fed babies are healthier than those who receive breast milk substitutes, families save time and money that would be spent on visits to health practitioners and on purchasing medicines. In short, breast feeding enables families to achieve great self-sufficiency, thus reducing their dependency upon commercial (and interior) products.
The conscientious person should also be sensitive to the effects breast feeding has on the environment. Breast feeding is ecologically sound since it uses only renewable resources and produces only biodegradable wastes. In
contrast, bottle-feeding uses non-renewable resources such as tin, plastic, glass and silicon, and produces non-biodegradable wastes and pollution. Moreover, while breast milk is produce locally and on demand, bottle-feeding products are often transported considerable distances by multinational companies.
Eisenburg points out that “Artificial milk involves; overgrazing of land by cattle, use of chemical fertilizers to grow the soy, use of valuable environmental resources for formula production, packaging and transporting of the product, use of water and fuel in mixing and heating the product, waste disposal of the cans, bottles, accessories, cartons, etc. Artificial feeding increases societal and personal health care costs and detrimentally effects the environment” (56).
According to the Surgeon General of the United States, thirty to forty percent of new mothers start off breast feeding their babies. The official goal of the Surgeon General’s office is to double the number so that seventy five percent of new mothers are breast-feeding. The women least likely to breast feed are low-income women. Unfortunately, these are the very women who are most likely to become obese after pregnancy and whose babies could most benefit from the long-term health benefits of breast feeding.
“Ever since Eve put Cain to suckle for the first time, breast-feeding has
been coming naturally to mothers and newborns. Right? Well, that is not always the case, at least not right away” (McGough). Eisenberg would agree to this statement. Although nursing does come naturally, he believes “It comes naturally a little later for some mothers and babies than others”(58). Sometimes there are physical factors that hamper those first few attempts; at other times it’s just a simple lack of experience of both participants. Whatever might be keeping the baby and the breasts apart, it won’t be long before they are in perfect sync, as long as the mother doesn’t give up first. Some of the most mutually satisfying breast-baby relationships begin with several days of fumbling, failed efforts, and tears on both sides.
As a first time mother I can relate to challenges of learning to breast-feed. I have a healthy, smart, well adjusted (not to mention beautiful) baby girl. I contribute a large part of those qualities to breast-feeding. I was a breast baby myself, and upon learning that I was pregnant, I had very little hesitation in deciding if I would follow in my mother’s footsteps. I did extensive research on the pros and cons of breast-feeding and came up with very few cons. I feel that breast feeding my daughter was the first and most important gift I could give her, aside from love. The satisfaction that I received from nursing her far outweighs any inconveniences that I might have incurred. The comfort of knowing that she was getting the best, most
nutritious food possible is an indescribable one, and the closeness that we share because of it is priceless. Although I was only able to nurse her for five months, I would not trade the experience or the benefits for anything. I hope to be able to nurse my next child for a year.
Obstetricians, pediatricians, nurse-midwives, even manufacturers of infant formula agree that breast-feeding is best. No matter how far technology advances, there will always be some things that Mother Nature does best. As Oliver Wendell Holmes the Elder said over a century ago, “A pair of substantial mammary glands has the advantage over the two hemispheres of the most learned professor’s brain in the art of compounding a nutritious fluid for infants” (58).
Brockport. “Advantages of Breast-feeding”.
http://www.acs.brockport.edu/~bb1368*. Page 1-3.
Denmark.. “Breast-feeding for Good Health” Advertisement. Department of
Dermer, Alicia. “Breast-feeding: Good for Babies Mothers and The Planet”.
http://medicalreporter.health.org*. page 1 & 2.
Eisenburg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway. What to Expect the
First Year. New York: Workman, 1996.