Myth: Formula Feeding Is Almost as Good as Breastfeeding
Fact: While a baby can grow and develop on formula, breastfeeding affords both physiological and psychological advantages for baby, as well as mother, that formula cannot begin to approximate. The decision to breastfeed or bottlefeed is not simply a matter of personal preference. The two are not equally good. Mother’s milk alone promotes optimal health.
The milk, the touch, the suckling, the eye contact and cradling—breastfeeding is more than the sum of its parts. It is a miraculous symbiotic system geared to ensure the emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing of a species. To wean or not to wean? How often? Breast or bottle? How long? Understanding the facts behind our choices is essential.
The miracles of mother’s milk
Every kind of milk has what is called biological specificity. This means every species of mammal formulates a milk that is specifically adapted for the needs and capabilities of that species. For example, the blue whale gives birth to enormous newborns with tremendous caloric needs. Because the newborn whale cannot hold its breath for long while suckling underwater, the mother has evolved a rich milk (over 50% fat) and a very powerful letdown reflex that literally pumps milk into the baby's mouth in enormous squirts. Similarly human milk is best suited to the nutritional needs of human babies.
Human milk is rich in the nutrients needed for brain development. There are approximately 400 nutrients in breast milk that are not present in artificial formulas. And miraculously, or naturally (take your choice), the amount of fats and other nutrients in mother's milk changes as baby's needs change. One of the prime factors in breast milk that cannot be duplicated in formulas is the presence of a large number of maternal antibodies that help to fight infections in the infant. Furthermore, breastfed infants have lower incidences of allergies, and breastfeeding may help prevent obesity (one-quarter to one-third of all US adults are obese and very few were breastfed).
Nature has formulated human milk to be very low in fat, so that the infant often needs to suckle several times an hour. This brings the infant into mother's field of vision, where the regular eye contact deepens the bond between the two. While baby feels nurtured and secure, snuggled into the warmth of mother's breast, the breastfeeding mother produces prolactin, oxytocin, and other hormones that further promote a physiologic bonding between the two.
Breastfeeding Benefits Baby and Mother
Convenience of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding Benefits Working Mothers and Babies