The importance of breastfeeding and alternatives if you can't

August 02, 2017

Maybe you’ve heard the rumors that breastfeeding isn’t necessary for your baby. Or perhaps you’ve heard that a bottle is the best way to get milk into your young one’s diet. Allow us to put these rumors to bed. Your baby absolutely needs your breast milk. Why? Breast milk provides babies with the right nutrition they need to develop. Did you know that your breast milk alone contains more protein, carbohydrates and digestible fats than cow’s milk or formula? Plus, the hormones your breast milk contains help calm your baby, aid digestion and reduce your baby’s chances of early-onset obesity.

Top reasons breastfeeding is necessary

Human milk is superior to animal milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, human milk is species specific, and all other options are inferior due to the lack of nutrients gleaned. Breast milk improves development and is sufficient for optimal growth, especially in the first six months of life. In fact, the protein in breast milk can protect against diarrhea, and the cholesterol from the milk makes it less likely that your baby will develop heart disease.

It promotes a strong immune system. Breast milk contains antibodies, which are passed down from you to your child. These antibodies protect against germs and infections such as botulism, influenza, ear infections and pneumonia. Because you produce antibodies to fend off diseases in your environment, your breast milk is custom-made to defend your baby as well.

It increases the mother-child bond. Breastfeeding brings you closer to your child simply from the act of doing it. When you hold your child, you satisfy his or her need to be held. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of two hormones: prolactin and oxytocin. Oxytocin is the same hormone that is released in the brain when you fall in love.

Breastfeeding cuts risk of asthma. Research suggests that breastfeeding for at least six months means less likelihood of developing asthma or wheezing later. This is due to breastfeeding’s effect on the immune system and the gut. Studies show that children who were never breastfed were 50 percent more likely to develop symptoms of asthma compared to children who were mostly breastfed.

It aids in intestinal development. A newborn baby’s gastrointestinal system is still fresh, meaning that there’s a possibility for bacteria and viruses to pass through. Hormones in breast milk, such as cortisol, and certain proteins, such asepidermal growth factor, can actually closeup the intestinal lining of your baby, making it more difficult for pathogens to pass through.

It promotes strong dental health. Giving a toddler or newborn breast milk ensures that you are regulating feeding cutoff time. If you give children a bottle, they are more likely to carry or hold it in their mouth for longer, letting the acids and sugar from the formula build up on their teeth. The bottle alone could also cause malocclusion, the misalignment of teeth. 

Breastfeeding is all-natural and free. The best thing about breastfeeding is that you know where it’s coming from, and it won’t cost you anything! Breast milk is healthier than anything you’ll find at the store, and it will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Did you know that not purchasing formula and supplies for just one year can save you upward of $1,700?

Although breastfeeding your baby is the best option, some of you may find it difficult or are simply unable to. Breast reduction surgery or hereditary issues can make it difficult for mothers to produce enough milk. When this happens, there are some alternatives you can try to still get breast milk into your child’s diet.

Alternatives to breastfeeding

Milk sharing. Before choosing formula, see if it’s possible to get milk from another mother who is nursing. You will want to ensure that the nursing mother is checked for communicable diseases and that her diet aligns with your baby’s sensitivities. Be warned; milk sharing is a controversial topic so be sure to contact a medical professional first to get advice on this option.

(If you are breastfeeding and interested in donating breast milk to others, learn more here.)

Lactation aids. If you are having trouble breastfeeding due to a low milk supply, get extra help by using a lactation aid. Typically, a tube is attached to a bottle filled with your breast milk. The tube and your nipple are then inserted into your child’s mouth, and the child begins to suck. The sucking will help stimulate your milk supply.

Formula feeding. Although breast milk is the best choice for babies, formula also comes in handy if you are having trouble feeding or producing milk. Formula offers a sense of convenience when it comes to feeding in public places, and it does contain some vitamins and nutrients your baby needs, such as vitamin D.

The decision of how to feed your baby is a personal one. But if you need additional guidance or advice, there are numerous lactation specialists who can help you along the way. Or you can contact your nearest health provider for a recommendation.

If you are having trouble with breastfeeding or lactation, you may also use Express Care Virtual service for an appointment from the comfort of your home.