Breast is best: advantages of breastfeeding

The evidence is conclusive: breast milk is the best nutrition you can offer your newborn. Breastfeeding offers tremendous health benefits to both mother and child. It is specially designed to cater for all your child’s nutritional needs in the first six months of life. For maximum benefits, breastfeeding should be initiated soon after the birth of your child and should be maintained exclusively for six months, until weaning is initiated.

The advantages of colostrum

For the first 2-4 days of your baby’s life, your breasts will secrete colostrum, a yellowish fluid rich in proteins. These valuable proteins are essential to the development of a healthy immune system.
  • The protein is easily digested and absorbed by the body, especially by the rapidly developing brain.
  • Colostrum provides factors that promote maturation of the gut and good digestion.
  • Colostrum is the most superior and well-designed nutrition for your baby in the first few days of life.

Breast milk is nutritionally superior to formula

  • Human milk contains both saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as cholesterol, an important constituent of brain and nerve tissue. The fat in breast milk is more digestible than that in formula.
  • The energy breast milk provides is more efficiently utilised, than the energy provided by formula.
  • Breast milk contains a full range of vitamins and minerals in an easily digestible combination.
  • Special immune system protective proteins are present in breast milk. These proteins offer protection against diarrhoea, food allergies and infections. The immunoprotective components of human milk include:
  • Lactoferrin : binds to iron, thus rendering it unavailable to viruses and bacteria.
  • Lysozymes and milk leucocytes: destroy viruses and bacteria
  • Secretory IgA: immunoglobulin that destroys viruses and bacteria
  • Bifidus factor: promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and limits the growth of disease-causing bacteria.

Advantages of breastfeeding for the baby

  • Superior nutrition
  • There is an increased resistance to infections, and therefore fewer incidents of illness and hospitalisation
  • Decreased risk of allergies and lactose intolerance
  • Breast milk is sterile
  • Baby experiences less nappy rash and thrush
  • Baby is less likely to develop allergies
  • Baby experiences fewer stomach upsets and constipation
  • Breastfed infants tend to have fewer cavities
  • Breastfeeding promotes the proper development of baby’s jaw and teeth.
  • Breastfed infants tend to have higher IQs due to good brain development early in life
  • Babies benefit emotionally, because they are held more
  • Breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding
  • In the long term, breastfed babies have a decreased risk of malnutrition, obesity and heart disease compared to formula fed babies.

Advantages of breastfeeding for the mother

  • The baby's sucking causes a mothers uterus to contract and reduces the flow of blood after delivery
  • During lactation, menstruation ceases, offering a form of contraception
  • Mothers who breastfeed tend to lose weight and achieve their pre-pregnancy figure more easily than mothers who bottle feed
  • Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer later in life
  • Breastfeeding is more economical than formula feeding
  • There are less trips to the doctor and less money is spent on medications
  • Breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding
  • Hormones released during breast-feeding create feelings of warmth and calm in the mother
The decision to breast or formula feed remains your individual choice. However, breast milk is undoubtedly the best nutrition you can give your baby, with added benefits for a mother.