For most of history, this would not even have been a question. Except in extreme circumstances, the only way for your baby to survive was for them to be breastfed. Certainly, babies weren’t always breastfed by their mother’s. Different cultural practices may have had other women do it for you, but civilization exists today because babies were breastfed. Lots of different things have been used to feed babies, but every other substance that can be used to feed human infants has deficiencies and documented problems. (1)
Your body is already preparing to do just that–breastfeed. See Prenatal Breast Changes. You probably know it is best to breastfeed your baby, but if you have any doubts about whether to breastfeed or not, you can always begin breastfeeding and decide to stop. At least you won’t ask yourself later–“What if?” Deciding to formula feed and switching to breastfeeding is more difficult, but can be done with knowledgeable help and support.
Often we have never had the opportunity to see a baby breastfeeding and that may be a barrier to deciding to breastfeed. If you have not had the experience of watching a baby breastfeed, you can see video clips of infant’s breastfeeding on Dr. Jack Newman’s website link http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=videos His pediatric practice is based in Canada.
Realize that breastfeeding has advantages for your baby, for yourself and for your community. For your baby, breastfeeding provides the ideal food. Breastmilk is the optimal food to grow a human baby. It is designer fluid made for your baby and the original fast food. (2) Cow’s milk or plant products are altered to be infant formula. They are not interchangeable with human milk.
Advantages for your infant: (3)
- Protection against a wide range of infectious disease, like ear infections, diarrhea, bacterial meningitis and respiratory tract infections.
- There are some studies that suggest a decreased incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, some cancers, being overweight, obesity and asthma versus those who were not breastfed
- Reduces infant death rates (4)
- Being breastfed has also been shown to slightly enhance intelligence. When have you wished you weren’t just a little bit smarter?!
Advantages for you as a mother (1)(3)(4)
- Breastfeeding decreases postpartum bleeding
- Helps the uterus decrease in size more quickly
- Helps you return to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
- Decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis.
Advantages for your community and beyond: (3)(5)(6)(7)
- Decrease in health care costs from prevention of illness
- Decreased costs for public health programs like Women Infants and Children (WIC) who are one of the largest purchasers of infant formula in the United States
- Decreased parents absence from work from baby illness
- Decreased environmental burden for disposal of formula cans and bottles
- Mannel, R, Marten, PJ, Walker, M, Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013, pp 366, 416.
- Commercial Production of Artificial Baby Milk, Available at http://www.lactationconsultant.info/commerabm.html Accessed Sept 12, 2015.
- United States Breastfeeding Committee, Benefits of Breastfeeding [issue paper], Raleigh, NC, United States Breastfeeding Committee, 2002.
- Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, 7th edition, Maryland Heights, MO, Elsevier Mosby, 2011, pp 31, 219-20.
- United States Breastfeeding Committee, Workplace Breastfeeding Support, [issue paper], Raleigh, NC, United States Breastfeeding Committee, 2002.
- United States Breastfeeding Committee, Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding, [issue paper], Raleigh, NC, United States Breastfeeding Committee, 2002.
- Policy Statement Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk, Pediatrics 129(3) Mar 2012.