Over the years, using baby formula has become even more prevalent in society, and it seems like the benefits of breastfeeding are forgotten. While formula can certainly be a substitution, it’s not on the same level.
For many parents, the decision not to breastfeed isn’t much of a choice. Some people take medications that can’t be passed to their baby through their milk, and others just simply can’t produce a healthy supply of milk. Also, sometimes a genuine medical condition prevents breastfeeding safely.
However, if you don’t fall into any of these categories and your doctor says you’re healthy enough to breastfeed, here’s why you should choose breast milk over formula.
1. Breastfeeding is the only way your baby can get colostrum
For the first three or four days after giving birth, your body will produce a yellow substance called colostrum, which is much thicker than normal breast milk. Colostrum is nutrient-dense and designed to give your baby the antibodies they need to start developing a strong immune system. Colostrum helps to stabilize blood sugar, initiates your baby’s digestive system, and supports mental development.
Compared to mature milk, colostrum contains two times more protein, four times more zinc, and has less fat and sugar, which makes it easy for your baby to digest.
If you choose not to breastfeed, you can get a colostrum supplement, but it’s not the same thing, and many people believe that nutrients are always more beneficial when produced by your own body.
2. Breastfeeding provides skin-to-skin contact
When you breastfeed your baby, you’re providing the skin-to-skin contact that helps you create a strong bond. Connecting this way helps your baby regulate their temperature, helps them feel safe and secure, and makes them generally cry less. You’ll also feel more relaxed and calm, as skin-to-skin contact has been shown to reduce cortisol levels.
This makes sense when you think about it because for about 9 months, your baby was in a dark environment surrounded by liquid, and then all of a sudden, they’re in a whole different world. The transition has to be scary, and the more comfort you can provide right away, the better your baby will feel.
3. Breastfeeding is linked to health
At first glance, it might seem like giving your baby formula isn’t much different from breast milk. After all, if it contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals in the same amounts, why would it matter?
There are many reasons nutrient supplementation isn’t the most ideal solution for anyone, not even adults. Eating real food is always better than taking capsules for nutrition. However, there are some big health issues associated with infants who are fed formula rather than breast milk.
According to the data, infants who are fed breast milk are less likely to develop the following:
· Type 1 diabetes
· Ear infections
· Respiratory disease
4. Breastfed babies are more intelligent
There is a major correlation between intelligence and being breastfed as a baby. Since the entire process of breastfeeding involves more than just delivering nutrients, this makes sense. When a baby is first born, it needs to start developing neural pathways in their brain. The bonding experience that comes with being breastfed provides a feeling of safety while those neural pathways are developing.
From 1999 to 2002, researchers studied about 1,300 infants and later assessed them between the ages of 3 and 7. They were tested for language, intelligence, motor skills, social-emotional development, behavior, and executive function. For each additional month a child was breastfed, their verbal IQ was 0.8 points higher.
You may have heard the phrase “whatever fires together wires together,” and if your baby feels anxious while they’re developing fundamental neural pathways, they are creating chaos in their nervous system. This type of nervous system disruption can later be expressed as an inability to pay attention, sit still, or concentrate for long periods of time. It can also impact intelligence by making it harder to think in multiple dimensions or think critically.
When you have a choice, choose breast milk for your baby
There’s no denying the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. The nutrients and antibodies will give them the foundation they need to grow into a healthy adult, and the bonding you’ll do with skin-to-skin contact will be unmatched.
Your body naturally produces breast milk for a reason, so unless you have a contraindication, make breastfeeding your first choice to support the health of your baby.