BREAST FEEDING – ADVANTAGES OF BREAST FEEDING
Advantages to the baby
Breast milk offers the best and complete nutrition for a baby in the first four to six months of life. The advantages of prolonged and exclusive breast-feeding are overwhelming for a baby’s as well as the mother’s health.
The advantages include:
- Complete Nutrition: The human brain and the child grow very fast during the first two years of life. In fact, this is the period of maximum growth of the baby. Breast milk, offered during this period is the best and complete nutrition for the baby for about 6 months of life. Thereafter, it continues to be an important source of nutrition in the second year of life. It has the ideal composition and is highly suited for the human infant in every possible way
- Energy: Average energy content of human milk is 67 kcal/dl.
- Fats: It contains the most suitable fat. It is rich in essential fatty acids- linoleic acid and linolenic acid, similar to the lipids of the human brain, for the baby in right quantities. The high content of certain fats (galactolipids) promotes rapid brain growth of the baby.
- Proteins: The human milk is considered to be the highest quality protein source for human babies. It is whey- predominant (whey: casein ratio being 80:20), which is easily digestible and rich in lactalbumin. The low protein content reduces the solute load on the baby’s kidneys and hence, has a protective role. It has high content of certain amino acids( an amino acid is a basic unit which forms the protein) like cysteine and taurine- important for brain development and in conjugation of bile acids.
- Sugar: It has high lactose content. It promotes synthesis of certain chemicals-cerebrosides in the brain. The calcium and iron retention are enhanced by the high lactose content.
- Water: It has enough water to support the baby till 4-6 months of age. No additional water supplementation is required if the baby is properly breast-fed.
- Enzymes: It is more easily digestible. The special enzyme ‘ lipase’ in the breast milk helps in the digestion of fat.
- Minerals: The minerals in the breast milk like iron and calcium are better absorbed. It has the right proportion of calcium and phosphorus (ratio being more than 2), which prevents tetany. The low sodium content reduces the load on the infant’s kidneys.
- Vitamins: It offers enough vitamins like – Vitamin B12, A, C, D, K and folic acid. Despite attempts at making formulas close to breast milk, the composition can never be exactly the same as breast milk
- Cover against infection:
Human milk has the following anti-infective factors, which protect the baby from several serious bacterial and viral infections.
- Antibodies- Immunoglobulin, especially Ig A
- Infection fighting Cells-T and B lymphocytes and macrophages
- Antiviral factor
- Antistreptococcal factor
- Para-amino benzoic acid (PABA).
The presence of these factors helps the breast-fed baby to fight against infections. There is sufficient data to support that the presence of antibodies increases the resistance to many childhood infections including gastroenteritis (diarrhea), middle ear infections, meningitis and respiratory infections -pneumonia.
- Counters risk of allergic disorders:
- Prevents allergies: It prevents the development of allergies, particularly asthma and eczema.
- In fact, it has been suggested to exclusively breast feed the baby for first 6 months in families with history of allergy and asthma. This has shown to reduce the development of these disorders.
- Improves I.Q.: Breast fed babies have a higher intelligence compared to formula fed babies. It has been observed that premature babies who were breast-fed turned out to more intelligent than the formula fed babies.
- Emotional advantages: The security and bonding that develops in a mother and baby can never be achieved in a bottle fed infant.
- It reduces the risk of certain types of cancer (lymphoma).
- Configuration of jaw is better because of the mechanism of suckling at the breast.
- The risk of obesity, atherosclerosis (deposition of fat in the blood vessels) and hence, coronary heart disease is reduced in later life.
- Dental caries are less common.
- It possibly reduces the risk of diabetes.
- Cot deaths or sudden infant death syndrome risk is probably reduced in breast fed babies.
- Neuro-behaviour advantage: