Breast milk (also referred to as human milk) is the best possible food for any infant. Its principal ingredients are water, sugar (lactose), easily digestible protein (whey and casein), and fat (edible fatty acids).
all properly balanced and enhanced to protect against such conditions as ear infections (otitis media), allergies, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, wheezing, bronchiolitis, and meningitis.
Also, breast milk contains minerals and vitamins, as well as enzymes that aid the digestive and absorptive process. Formulas only approximate these nutrients and don’t provide all the proteins, nor the antibodies, growth-promoting factors, and many other valuable components.
There are many reasons for breastfeeding your baby. Breast milk is relatively low in cost—a slight increase in your caloric intake costs much less than what you would spend on formula. Also, breast milk needs no preparation and is instantly available wherever you may be. Breastfeeding uses about 500 calories a day to produce the milk and may make it easier for some women to get back into shape after giving birth. At the same time, it’s mainly essential that mothers continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet while nursing to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus tighten and return to its normal size more quickly.
The psychological and emotional advantages of breastfeeding are just as compelling, for both mother and child. Nursing provides skin-to-skin contact, which is soothing for your baby and pleasant for you. The same hormones that stimulate milk production and release also may promote feelings that enhance bonding. Almost all nursing mothers find that the experience of breastfeeding makes them feel more attached and protective toward their babies and more confident about their abilities to nurture and care for their children. When breastfeeding is going well, it has no known disadvantages for the baby. The breastfeeding mother may feel an increased demand on her time. Studies, however, show that breastfeeding and formula-feeding take about the same amount of time. Bottle-feeding requires more time for shopping and cleaning feeding utensils. Time spent with the baby is essential for infant nurturing and development and can be pleasurable to the mother. Other family members can assist by covering household tasks, especially during the first few weeks, when the mother needs extra rest, and the baby demands frequent feeding.
The Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
Studies show there are numerous health benefits for breastfed babies. Compared to formula-fed babies, those who are breastfed have lower rates of:
Gastrointestinal infections that cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Septicemia and bacterial meningitis.
Urinary tract infections.
Eczema, asthma, and food allergies.
Respiratory diseases, including pneumonia.
Diabetes (types 1 and 2).
Obesity in adolescence and adulthood.
Inflammatory bowel disease.
Childhood leukemia and lymphoma.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Other family members can actively share in all aspects of baby care even though they do not directly feed her milk. Remain sensitive to the needs of fathers, partners, and siblings. A partner’s nonnutritive cuddling with the baby plays an important role, as does the comforting of the mother and baby when needed. A partner can hold, burp, diaper, bathe and walk with the baby. After breastfeeding is well established (about three to four weeks of age), the partner may feed expressed milk with a bottle.