You’ve probably heard the adage that breast is best, but do you know why breast milk is better than formula for your baby? In a number of different scientific studies, breast milk has been shown to greatly reduce an infant’s risk for illness. These studies have shown that feeding your baby breast milk can help protect them from illness like ear infections, both upper and lower respiratory infections, common allergies (including dust, mold, pollen, and other common irritants), disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, the common cold, viruses like flu, staph infections, diabetes, strep infections, childhood cancer, e coli infections, meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS. In fact, research has shown that risk infant death is more than one hundred and twenty times greater in the cases of illness in formula fed babies versus breast fed babies. Offering your baby breast milk can also offer a lifetime protection against adult diseases like Crohn’s disease, colitis, diabetes, lymphoma, and breast and ovarian cancer in women. It can even give you added protection against breast cancer in your later life.
Breastfeeding is able to offer your baby protection from illness through the composition of breast milk. There are certain antibodies in breast milk that are created by your body’s immune system to help you fight each threat that comes your way. When your baby is born, his or her immune system is weak and immature. This makes your newborn far more susceptible to the germs that are incessantly invading our environments. Your breast milk, though, contains antibodies that you have already created to fend off these germs. You give these antibodies to your baby, and it helps to boost his or her immune system so it, too, can fight these germs. Moreover, during nursing, you baby gives you germs that he or she has been exposed to. Your immune system makes antibodies based on these germs and gives them to your baby during the next nursing session. This means that any germs or viruses you (or your baby) are exposed to is immediately loaded into your body’s computer and taken care of. You get protection for the both of you.
This amazing system does not mean your baby will never get sick. Breastfed babies can and do get sick. However, in most cases, illnesses that breastfed babies suffer tend to be much less serious. They also tend to be much shorter than those that formula fed babies suffer. Research has demonstrated on a continual basis that your baby’s immune system will not reach full maturity for many years. As long as you are giving your baby breast milk, even if you are expressing it, he or she will have the same protections. Breast milk can also help your baby’s immune system develop at a much faster rate than if he or she were not getting breast milk.
Giving your baby breast milk can give them a great start in life. It can mean that they are healthy enough to start developing the skills they will need for a lifetime of learning.