Breast is best, there's no doubt about it.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life. Thereafter, infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
If you read the packaging carefully, no formula milk will claim to be as good as mother's breastmilk - because it would be considered misinformation and contravene the international code of marketing breastmilk substitutes as defined by the WHO!
Here's just some of the reasons why breastmilk is so good for your baby.
Why breastmilk is so good for babies
It's custom-made! Tailored to the needs of human infants, breastmilk contains at least 100 ingredients that are not found in cow's milk and that can't be synthesizd in laboratory - not bad eh!
In addition, the composition of breastmilk changes constantly to meet a baby's changing needs. The beginning of the feed (more watery and thirst-quenching) is different from the tail-end of the feed (richer in fats and satisfy hunger); the morning feed is different from the evening feed; different the first month than the eighth month; different for a premature baby than for a full-term baby.
It's easy on Baby's Body and Tum! Nutrients in breastmilk are designed to be absorbed by the infant's sensitive and still developing digestive system. For example, breastmilk contains less sodium than cow's milk formula, making it easier for a baby's kidneys to handle. Breastmilk contains a special enzyme called lipase that helps to digests fat. It also contain bifidus factor which helps to promote a healthy intestinal flora, which in turn, prevents diarrheao.
All these mean that breastfed babies are able to absorb nutrients more effectively, and less likely to suffer from gas and excessive spitting up.
It's instant Health Coverage! Babies receive antibodies in every drop of breastmilk from their mothers. In addition, breastmilk contains living white blood cells which kill bacteria. A baby's immune system will not be ready until between the age of four to seven, making them very susceptible to illnesses. Breastfed babies are noticeably healthier, with fewer colds, ear infections, and other illneses compared to bottle-fed babies. And when they do fall ill, breastfed babies usually recover faster and with less complications.
It's a brain-booster! Breastfeeding appears to increase a baby's IQ, at least through age 15. This could be due to the existance of fatty acids (DHA) in breastmilk. DHA is vital for brain-building; it's so important that if a mother's diet is lacking in DHA, the mammary glands will manufacture DHA while baby is nursing. DHA has only recently been included in some formula milk, but whether babies can absorb them well is another matter.
The brain-boosting connection can also be due to the closeness and mother-baby interaction that is built into the breastfeeding process.
It's fast food on the go! Served straight from the breast, you never have to worry about unsterilised equipments and bottles, contamination or improperly prepared milk. And it's always the right temperature too, even if baby doesn't "finish" it all at one go!
And so much more! Breastmilk is not just food. Breastfeeding also provides great comfort to the baby and promotes a unique closeness between mother and child. Nothing comforts an upset baby (and toddler) as quickly as nursing. And many mothers find that an unwell baby who rejects all solids, will often accept breastmilk as its only nourishment until better.
(Adapted from What to Expect: the first year)