By: Ashli Collins, MD
Throughout time, breastfeeding has fallen into and out of favor in the public’s eye. Thankfully, research has proven again and again that “breast is best for baby.” There are many benefits to breastfeeding for the baby, as well as the family. As you prepare to deliver your new baby and start your new life together, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding your infant. Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease illness/infection in infants, decrease the risk of diabetes and obesity and also increase scores on early cognitive testing.
As you will read further along, breastfeeding offers the perfect nutrition for baby, but there are many other benefits to mom. There is a huge cost savings associated with nursing – the average formula fed baby costs an additional $3-5/day. There is also less environmental waste with nursing (no large containers, bottles, nipples to be discarded). Breastfeeding decreases the occurrence of ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer in mom, as well. The additional caloric expenditure by mom to provide milk also helps nursing moms return to the pre-baby weight even quicker. Plus, there is a special bond that forms while nursing an infant that is unique.
- Immunoglobulins-these are the infection fighting components that is passed from mom to baby to help protect from infections of ears, nose, throat and the GI tract. Mom’s immunity to virus’ and bacteria from her previous exposures will help protect baby. Secretory IgA is the main immunoglobulin passed on as well as IgM and IgG.
- DHA and ARA-these two lipid components play an important role in brain and retinal growth. Recently, formula companies have tried to add these ingredients to their products.
- Carnitine-this is present in breast milk and formula. Breast fed babies tend to have higher levels of this component which helps break down fatty acids into a usable energy source.
- Natural proteins-as opposed to cow’s milk protein in formula, which can be an allergy trigger in many infants.
- Lysozymes-are naturally occurring enzymes that are found in very high levels in breast milk. These enzymes help promote the growth of “good bacteria” in the newborn’s intestinal tract.
- Growth factors-these are considered to be like “probiotics” as they too encourage the growth of good bacteria such as lactobacillaceae which also help protect newborns from gram negative infections and parasites.
- Lactoferrin-another component that helps select for healthy, good bacteria in the babies gut. Lactoferrin limits the availability of iron to certain iron requiring bacteria. It is most prevalent in the colostrum.
Breast milk is definitely the ideal nutrition for your infant. This perfect mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins not only help your child grow but also help protect them from disease. In order for new moms to continue to make ideal breast milk, it is recommended that they stay on their prenatal vitamins and drink plenty of fluids. In order to establish the best pattern of breastfeeding, the AAP recommends feeding your newborn 8-12 times daily in the first few weeks of life as well as limiting pacifier use until breastfeeding is well established.
Certain circumstances may prohibit a new mom from initiating breastfeeding. If the mother is HIV positive or has active untreated tuberculosis, breastfeeding is contraindicated. Mothers addicted to drugs or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation also are not recommended to breastfeed. If the infant is diagnosed with galactosemia, breastfeeding should be discontinued.
For woman wanting to breastfeed but who struggle initially may find the help of a lactation consultant very beneficial. Formula manufacturers continue to strive to mimic what is found in breast milk and can provide adequate calories and nutritional components if you are not able to breastfeed. Consult with your pediatrician if you have questions regarding what is best for your newborn
Image from: www.breastfeeding.blog.motherwear.com
Dr. Collins is a pediatrician with Oldham County Pediatrics, PLLC. They have offices in LaGrange and in Louisville near the Summit. She has 9-year-old twins, Sarah and P.J. For more information, call (502) 225-6277 or visit www.oldhamcountypeds.com.