Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. However, many mothers get conflicting advice and often wonder if their breast milk production is sufficient for their young ones or is breast milk really better than formula or should they give formula with breastfeeding?
Breast milk has everything the baby needs. It contains the right balance of nutrients for your baby and boosts your baby’s immune system. It is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and a combination of solid foods & breastmilk until your baby is atleast a year old.
“Colostrum” is the initial milk that comes in the first few days, has been proven to have many health benefits and help newborn baby to fight against infections.
Breastfeeding benefits for babies:
- Fewer illness
- Helps preventing childhood obesity & diabetes
- Prevents allergies
- It offers the first active immunity to the baby.
Breastfeeding benefits for mothers:
- Helps burn calories and reduce weight
- Reduces risk of ovarian, uterine & breast cancer
- Reduces risk of hypertension, DM & cardiovascular diseases.
Breastfeeding benefits for both:
- Helps in developing a bond between mother & baby through skin to skin contact.
What if Breastfeeding is not going well?
Breast milk takes initial few days to get well established. It is a reflex from the pituitary gland that establishes breast milk production. The more the baby suckles and the more exclusive the breastfeeding is, it will aid in good milk production.
Medications are available to help aid milk production. The mother being calm, relaxed with good nutrition, plenty of fluids & rest goes a long way in establishing adequate breastfeeding.
How is Breast milk different from formula feeds?
- Breast milk is often called the perfect food for a human baby’s digestive system. It is more easily digested than formula feeds.
- Breast milk also naturally contains many of the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires except for Vitamin D.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that all breast fed babies should receive Vitamin D supplement during first 2 months and continue until a baby consumes enough Vitamin D fortified formula or milk (after 1 year of age).
The FDA regulates formula milk to ensure they provide all necessary nutrients (including Vitamin D) in their formulas. Still commercial formulas cannot completely match breast milk’s exact composition.
Breast milk is convenient, sterile at the right temperature, and of course free.
Combining Breastfeeding and formula feeding:
A diet of breast milk only provides the best nutrition. Formula supplement can disrupt breast feeding as well as affect milk supply. However, if the breast milk production is not adequate, alternative feeding can be started according to paediatrician’s advice.
Note: This year’s World Breastfeeding slogan is: “Empower Parents, Enable Breast Feeding”
Give your baby a healthy start
Dr. Asha Shanbhag | Senior Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynaecology | Narayana Multispecialty Hospital, Whitefield