So, whats the big deal? You may be asking. Why all the excitement about breastfeeding and breastmilk anyway? Well, personally, I have always had an interest in nutrition so to look at it from a nutritional point of view, breastmilk is THE perfect food for your baby. The most expensive formula on the market doesn't even come close to providing your baby with exactly what it needs for optimum growth and develop. Really, this stuff is AMAZING.
Bottle-feeding or formula feeding is so prevalent as it is now seen as the norm, and unfortunately, more accepted in public than breastfeeding. We are so far removed from our basic needs and functions, that we are denying our babies of their most basic need as a lifestyle choice. Therefore breastfeeding needs passionate supporters behind it to help normalize it.
Colostrum comes before breastmilk, often months before your baby's birth and is thick, sticky and yellowish in colour. Colostrum is wonderful stuff, and even if you (for some reason) decide not to breastfeed you should let your baby enjoy those first few days of this liquid gold. Colostrum acts as a laxative, clearing your baby's gut of meconium (the first poo).
Colostrum contains huge amounts of immune-boosting antibodies, proteins, peptides and transfer factor. Transfer factor appears to transfer information to major immune cells about specific pathogens. The cells then destroy these pathogens if they are ever encountered. As your newborn suckles, all of these nutrients are absorbed through the baby's permeable intestines. After about six hours, the baby's gut seals up and the colostrum becomes sweet with sugar. Mucus begins to line your baby's intestine and the sugar feeds the microflora. The microflora then stick to the mucus. This is how babies get a fully functioning immune system. 1Usually around day three of your baby's life your milk comes in, breastmilk is lighter in colour and texture than colostrum but just as essential to your baby's well-being. Breastmilk is usually nutritionally perfect, your body will sacrifice a lot to make sure your milk is fit for a growing baby, so be sure to eat well and take your multivitamin and mineral and high doses of DHA, I will chat more about a breastfeeding mothers diet later in the week.
Breastmilk is a perfect food and contains everything your baby needs in an easily absorbed form. This may be the reason why babies who are breastfed for six months are smarter.
The formulas do not contain GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and DHA (decosahexaenoic acid) which are so important. Breastmilk is perfectly formulated for maximum neurological growth. DHA is the essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acid needed for brain development and the fatty acid found in highest concentration in the brain. A deficiency of DHA is associated with post-partum depression in women and lower IQ in DHA-deficient babies.2
Breastmilk is emotionally essential for bonding and it contains soothing hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin. These cannot be replicated in formula. Bottlefed babies tend to put on weight more quickly than breastfed babies and this is sometimes viewed as an advantage, however, growth does not equal putting on excess weight. Slower infant growth has actually been linked to slower ageing in adulthood. It is impossible to overfeed with breastmilk, the same cannot be said with formula. Breastfed babies develop 90% of bone growth expected at nine months, whereas bottle-fed babies only have 50% of their bone growth by that time. 3
Breastfeeding is good for mothers too. Women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer later on. Mothers who breastfeed get into their pre-pregnancy shape quicker as breastfeeding encourages your uterus to shrink quickly. Breastfeeding also triggers the release of stess-relieving hormones, and so breastfeeding mothers are literally happier mothers.
Honestly, I cannot think of one reason not to breastfeed, if you are physically able, can you?
1 Evie's Kitchen by Shazzie↩
2 Rainbow Green Live-food Cuisine by Gabriel Cousens↩
3 Creating Healthy Children by Karen Ranzi↩