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Is Breast Really Best? #WorldBreastfeedingWeek2022

Now, as a new parent, you have another decision to make and that’s whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby. But wait! What’s the difference? It is well known that in comparison to formula milk/infant formula, breastfeeding is not only a great way of bonding with your baby but it also provides better health benefits for both baby and the mother. These include:

Benefits for the baby

  • Stronger immune system - breast milk contains antibodies but also other germ-fighting factors that go from the mother to her newborn, strengthening the baby’s immune system and therefore reducing the risk of infections such as ear infections, meningitis, respiratory infections and allergies.

  • Higher IQ - Research suggests that breastfed babies have better results on intelligence tests in comparison to children that were formula milk fed

  • Lower risk of having constipation or diarrhoea as breast milk is easier to digest

  • Lower risk of developing

    • Asthma

    • Diabetes

    • Obesity

    • SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)

    • Cardiovascular disease (when baby reaches adulthood)

    • Leukaemia

Benefits for the mother

  • Reduced risk of developing

    • Obesity

    • Breast cancer

    • Ovarian cancer

    • Osteoporosis

    • Cardiovascular disease

  • Easier to lose weight after pregnancy

Do you know that breast milk is considered the “perfect food” for human babies’ digestive systems? This is because:

  • Breast milk is easily digested;

  • It already contains by nature all the nutrients (i.e. lactose, protein (casein & whey), fat, vitamins & minerals) the newborn needs in order to develop and grow normally;

  • It is a safe, fresh and clean food to give to your newborn.

Regarding how long you should breastfeed your baby, it is recommended to exclusively breastfeed the infant for the first 6 months of life, after which it is ideal to add some solid food alongside the breast milk.

Are there any reasons that I should not breastfeed my baby?

Yes, there are. Those who have health problems such as HIV, AIDS, cracked/bleeding nipples or if taking medications that could be harmful to the baby (e.g. treatment for cancer) should not breastfeed their baby. Some mothers also choose not to breastfeed their baby or struggle to do so, and this is when formula milk can be used instead (or a combination of the two).

So what exactly is formula milk?

Well, in general, this is made from cows’ milk which has been treated in order to be suitable for babies. But, you should know that there are also other types of formula milk such as goats’ milk formula, hungrier baby formula, anti-reflux formula, lactose-free formula and soy formula, just to name a few. The good thing is that infant formula still contains the nutrients required for the normal growth and development of the baby. However, in comparison to breast milk, formula milk does not give the baby and mother the same health benefits. Formula milk doesn’t have the antibodies that breast milk contains and therefore does not protect the infant from infections.

As a breastfeeding mother, you should also be aware of…

  • Alcohol consumption - try to avoid it! However, if you consume alcohol during this period, then you should not breastfeed your baby for at least 2 hours after the single drink. In this way, you prevent alcohol from passing to your baby;

  • Caffeine - consume no more than 300 mg/day (i.e. 1-3 cups of regular coffee). Exceeding this amount can make some babies experience irritability and restlessness;

  • Diet - you still have to avoid seafood and fish high in mercury and reduce the consumption of fish that is low in mercury because of mercury poison risk.

Also, if you are not sure whether you should breastfeed your baby or not, talking with a specialist (e.g. GP, health visitor or a midwife) in order to inform and guide you, should be very helpful.


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