Why Breastfeeding is Best and Should be Encouraged by Society

Many mothers today differ in their opinions on what’s better for their newborn: breastfeeding or bottle-feeding? Nutrition is especially crucial for development in the first two years of the baby’s life because it’s brain and body are growing so rapidly. 

Babies need both enough food and the right kind of food. In early infancy, breastfeeding is ideally suited to their needs, and bottled formulas try to imitate it. 

Today, 79% of American mothers begin breastfeeding after birth, about half stop by 6 months (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014a). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2011) advises exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and including breast milk in the baby’s diet until at least 1 year. 

Here are seven reasons to breastfeed, according to its nutritional and health advantages:

Breastfeeding provides the correct balance of fat and protein 

Compared with the milk of other mammals, human milk is higher in fat and lower in protein. This balance, as well as the unique proteins and fats contained in human milk, is ideal for newborn babies and their forming nervous systems. 

Breastfeeding ensures nutritional completeness

A mother who breastfeeds doesn’t need to add other foods to her child’s diet until the baby is 6 months old. The milks of all mammals are low in iron, but the iron in breastmilk is absorbed more easily by the baby’s digestive system. 

Breastfeeding helps ensure healthy physical growth

One-year-old babies that are breastfed are leaner, or they have a higher percentage of muscle to fat. That pattern continues through the preschool years and is associated with less obesity and overweightness in the future. 

Breastfeeding protects against many diseases

Breastfeeding transfers antibodies and other infection-fighting agents from mother to baby and enhances the functioning of the immune system. Compared to bottle-fed infants, breastfed babies have far fewer allergic reactions and respiratory and intestinal illnesses. Breastfeeding in the first four months, especially when not mixed with bottle-feeding, is linked to lower blood cholesterol levels in adulthood and may help prevent cardiovascular disease. 

Breastfeeding protects against faulty jaw development and tooth decay 

When babies suck their mother’s nipple instead of an artificial nipple, it helps avoid malocclusion, a condition where the upper and lower jaws do not meet properly. It also protects against tooth decay due to sweet liquid remaining in the mouths of infants who fall asleep while sucking on a bottle. 

Breastfeeding ensures digestibility

Because breastfed babies have a different kind of bacteria growing in their intestines than do bottle-fed infants, they rarely suffer from constipation or other gastrointestinal problems

Breastfeeding smooths the transition to solid foods 

Breastfed infants accept new solid foods more easily than do bottle-fed infants. This is perhaps caused by their greater experience with a variety of flavors, which pass from the maternal diet into the mother’s milk. 

Try Your Best

Not all moms are able to breastfeed, and that’s okay. But if you have the option to breastfeed your baby, do it! Nursing will help your baby, you, and your relationship.

While it may seem daunting in the beginning, keep on going. Breastfeeding is worth it!

For more information on the benefits of breastfeeding:

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Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012a; Druet et al., 2012; Ip et al., 2009; Owen et al.; 2008.

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