What is breastfeeding? What is the benefit of breastfeeding? These are vital questions to be answered when one wants to pursue breastfeeding with their child. Breastfeeding by definition is “the method of feeding a baby with milk directly from the mother 's breast”. Breastfeeding offers many benefits to a baby. Breast milk is also an inimitable nutritional source that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula. Pollutants can accumulate in breast milk, but it still remains superior to infant formula in regards to the overall health of both mother and child.
Breast milk is laden with the necessary nutrients and antibodies that strengthen the infant’s immune system. Breastfeeding the infant within an hour of birth significantly reduces the chances of the infant contracting infections. Babies who are breastfed are able to fight off diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases much more easily compared to the ones who are not. This also reduces the risk of infant mortality in breastfed babies. Not only is breast milk better suited to the baby’s nutritional needs, it is also easier for the baby to digest compared to infant formula. Moreover, the practice of breastfeeding holds sentimental significance as well. The skin- and eye-contact during breastfeeding helps the mother to form a more intimate bond with the baby. Тхис emotional fulfillment is not the only benefit to the mother. Breastfeeding reduces the chances of breast and ovarian cancer in women. It also makes the mother less susceptible to osteoporosis: a disease that women usually develop after menopause. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their young for the first six months are less likely to get pregnant during that time period. This is a natural birth-control process termed as Lactation Amenorrhea Technique (LAT). It is nature’s way of allowing for sufficient gaps between pregnancies.
Disadvantages to formula feeding are numerous. First, the child and mother do not get the benefits of breastfeeding that were discussed above. Formula feeding may cause the child to develop allergies (although the evidence for this is inconclusive) and may lead to obesity later in life. Finally, formula may have contaminants in it such as melamine, cronobacter, salmonella, or botulism (Lönnerdal, 2014). Breastfeeding is often difficult for working mothers because they are away from their infants eight or more hours a day. If the child is receiving breast milk exclusively, the mother must express the milk while she is at work and arrange to freeze it immediately so that it will be safe. Federal law specifies that employers with more than 50 employees must provide breaks for working mothers who need to express milk, as well as a private location other than a bathroom. Some states have similar or broader laws (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016). Unfortunately, most of these laws lack enforcement procedures, so employers know that they can break the law with impunity.
Ordinarily, when a woman has a baby, she immediately is faced with many decisions. These decisions include, where to send the child to daycare, what kind of diapers to use, or which doctor to take them to. One of the most important decisions is whether or not to breastfeed. Doctors and nurses around the country suggest that breastfeeding has many benefits. These benefits are not only benefits for the baby, but also benefits for the mother.
Lönnerdal, B. (2014). Infant formula and infant nutrition: bioactive proteins of human milk and implications for composition of infant formulas. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(3), 712S-717S.
Salone, L. R., Vann, W. F., & Dee, D. L. (2013). Breastfeeding: an overview of oral and general health benefits. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 144(2), 143-151.
Tham, R., Bowatte, G., Dharmage, S. C., Tan, D. J., Lau, M. X. Z., Dai, X., … & Lodge, C. J. (2015). Breastfeeding and the risk of dental caries: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Acta Paediatrica, 104(S467), 62-84.
U.S. Department of Labor. (2016). Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.
Victora, C. G., Bahl, R., Barros, A. J., França, G. V., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., … & Group, T. L. B. S. (2016). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, 387(10017), 475-490.