|I have always been a strong proponent of breastfeeding. In fact, my alma mater, Lehigh University, recently reached out to interview me on this very topic for our alumni magazine – Breastfeeding: Dr. David Berger ’91 Discusses the Advantages.When new or prospective parents are considering breastfeeding versus baby formula, they often ask me if there are benefits to choosing to breastfeed their infant. Here are some of the main reasons I advocate for breastfeeding over formula when possible.|
|1. Strengthens the immune system: Antibodies made by the mother are constantly being secreted into breast milk. Breast milk does not only contain antibodies that resulted from prior maternal infections; it also possesses antibodies within 4 hours of the mom being exposed to a virus or bacteria. Additionally, breast milk antibodies do not just enter the baby through their intestines; the baby’s back of the nose and throat get coated with the antibodies as well.|
2. The perfect food: From day one, the birth-mother produces colostrum (the initial, thinner breast milk), which is the perfect first food for a newborn. Several days later, full breast milk comes in. Breast milk is the perfect blend of fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), proteins, and carbohydrates. Infant formula is developed to mimic breast milk, but it will never equate because of the lack of antibodies (see item #1).
3. Reduces risk of infection and disease: Studies have conclusively shown breast milk reduces the likelihood of infections and diseases, including: ear, intestines, sinus, and respiratory tract infections; diabetes; allergies; and childhood leukemia.
4.Improves long-term brain development: All things being equal, babies who received breast milk have an average increase of 4 IQ points over those who were not breastfed. While that may not sound like that much, I could sure use those 4 points! This benefit to long-term brain development appears to be even more pronounced in babies who were born premature.
5. Benefits to the mom: Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract, which decreases blood loss. It also helps the mother in a variety of ways, including: lowering the risk of postpartum depression; lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer; saving time (when feeding at the breast, as opposed to pumping and then feeding); saving money (due to the ever-increasing, unpredictable price of quality formula), and more quickly returning to pre-pregnancy weight, if that’s desired.
Of course, there are more benefits to breastfeeding, but these are my top 5 and the ones I think are most useful to parents who are weighing the benefits of breastfeeding over formula.
Watch my extended video on this topic here.
Hope it helps!