The best food for babies is undoubtedly human milk. It contains the correct proportion of the correct nutrients for a thriving infant. It also contains considerable unique components such as lactoferrin that provides the highest absorption of iron. Human breast milk protects the gut from harmful bacteria and contains lipases which help with the digestion of fats, other growth factors and hormones helping with the infant’s growth and development.
Human milk changes in its composition during the feed. At the beginning of the feed, it is thirst quenching before changing into a hunger satisfying consistency. As the infant grows, the milk produced changes to match the nutritional needs.
Baby’s first immunisation is provided by human milk. It contains living immune cells and antibodies protecting baby from respiratory and intestinal diseases.
The human milk that arrives when the baby is born (colostrum) contains substances that help with the immune system. Babies fed from formula milk are at a higher risk or illnesses such as middle ear infections, pneumonia and stomach flue.
Immunities from developing cancers such as bowel disease, Crohn’s disease are also provided in breast milk. Studies have shown that breastfed babies respond better to their immunisations. The benefits offered by breast milk immediately begin and increase with the length of time that the infant is breastfed.
Formula fed babies grow differently to breastfed babies. Those babies that are breastfed grow quicker in the beginning then slow down as they are reaching their first birthday. It should be noted that those infants who are formula fed have a higher risk of developing obesity later in life. Studies have also shown that the brain developments better through breastfeeding.
There are many benefits in breast milk for premature babies due to premature breast milk containing different amounts of nutrients suited to the needs of premature babies.
Less stress is caused for the infant by sucking at the breast and digesting the breast milk compared to formula milk. The majority of premature babies can breastfeed as soon as they are able to suckle. Premature babies that are breastfed usually leave the neonatal intensive care unit sooner due to the reduction in infection and the shorter time to full feeding.
Breastfeeding is also good for mothers. It should be regarded as a relaxing, joyful experience. There are also many benefits health wise for mothers who breastfeed. Due to the baby’s suckling, oxytocin is released causing the uterus to contract, protecting mothers from haemorrhage. If breastfeeding is continues there is also a delay in ovulation and menstruation.
Medical problems in babies such as congenital heart disease, cleft palate and Down’s syndrome may be helped by the infant being breastfed. Where the baby has difficulties with suckling, expressed milk from the best is the next best thing.
Its not just human milk that benefits both a mother and baby. By breastfeeding as opposed to bottle feeding, the infant has less risk of dental problems such as tooth decay. The skin to skin contact enjoyed by mother and baby assists with close bonding.