Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Breast Milk is the Best Milk (for Babies)

My mother was the President of Wayne-Paoli Nursing mothers way back when my brothers and I were infants. Consequently, I have been brought up thinking that breastfeeding is what I must do when I have children (because my mom nags… I mean encourages… every mother-to-be or new mother about the topic). However, it was only the past few years that I have learned about all the benefits associated with breastfeeding, especially with regards to health and development, and my feelings about breastfeeding intensified.

Question: Why am I writing about this in a nutrition blog? Answer: Breastmilk is a major source of nutrition during a critical developmental period

Anyway, at Penn State I was able to take a breastfeeding (BF= breastfeeding, not boyfriend or best friend) lecture series through one of my courses, and then during the dietetic internship we had opportunities to learn about the benefits. Also, I try to keep up on my BF research because it is always a topic of conversation with my older friends and cousins who are having babies.

Here are the basic facts showing why BF is a good choice:
  • On average, women will burn an extra 350-500 calories/day during lactation, and therefore, it is an easy way to help get rid of the extra “baby weight”
  • BF is cheap. If you don’t need to lose weight, the extra 400 calories/day can be supplemented by 4 tbsp of peanut butter, which ends up costing about $0.33/day(assuming 15 tbsp/container, $2.50/container) versus on average $5.00/day for formula (see http://www.suite101.com/content/cost-comparison-of-breastfeeding-and-formula-a128286 for a more detailed analysis of all products needed for both options).
  • BF forms a bond between mother and child
  • Many other reasons not really related to nutrition…..
Now, for the nutrition and health-related reasons:
  • Breastmilk contains anti-bodies that formula cannot provide allowing the infant’s immune system to gain strength
  • A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children (especially boys) that were breastfed for >6 months performed better academically after 10 years than those who were not. Another study also found that children breastfed for >8 months performed higher on verbal and performance IQ tests at ages 7 and 8. (3,4)
  • The previously mentioned study findings could be attributed to the long chain fatty acids that are found in breastmilk (formula cannot mimic) which are critical to brain development
  • Adults who were breastfed have a lower risk of countless diseases and health disorders (gastric cancer, peptic ulcer disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and others).
Because of all the benefits associated with breastfeeding, the World Health Organization recommends that all mothers breastfeed for at least 6 months. If you are unable to breastfeed, do not worry, your child will most likely turn out fine. However, do not discount breastfeeding if you haven’t tried. For more information about breastfeeding, visit La Leche League Int’l: http://www.llli.org/resources.html

A final quote to leave you with from the World Health Organization:
“Lack of breastfeeding – and especially lack of exclusive breastfeeding during the first half-year of life – are important risk factors for infant and childhood morbidity and mortality that are only compounded by inappropriate complementary feeding. The life-long impact includes poor school performance, reduced productivity, and impaired intellectual and social development.” (6)

1. Breastfeeding Facts: http://www.breastfeedingfacts.com/
2. La Leche League International Facts: http://www.llli.org/cbi/facts.html
3. Dewey, K.G. Is breastfeeding protective against child obesity? J Human Lact 2003; 19 (1) 9-18.
4. Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3489
5. Horwood, L. J. et al. Breast milk feedings and cognitive ability at 7-8 years. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2001:84:423-27.
6. World Health Organization. Global strategy on infant and young child feeding. 2002-4;13.10.

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