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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the health benefits of breastfeeding?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Joy Anderson

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Joy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has a special interest in … View Profile

    In fact there are no health benefits to breastfeeding as breastfeeding is the normal, physiological way to feed our young. However, there are potential health hazards in feeding babies substitutes. Infant formulas are designed to satisfy the nutritional needs of babies (so they grow) but they can never replace the multiple forms of immune protection, the live cells in breastmilk that act in the baby's body to help development, the growth factors and probably components we are yet to discover. Each species of mammal (including humans) produces species-specific milk suited to their young. Human milk is designed specifically to grow brains quickly. Cow's milk is designed to grow muscles and bones quickly. Any animal milk used to make formula for human babies has to be greatly modified even to just approximate human milk's major nutrients. There is no independent evidence that any of the ‘new’ additives in infant formulas actually improve the formula for babies or make it ‘closer to breastmilk’ as they advertise. The additives are very different to the ones in breastmilk they are trying to copy.

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Breast feeding is protective to to the baby. Early breast milk is liquid gold colostrum  is the thick yellow first breast milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby. Although your baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her tiny stomach can hold. Your breast milk changes as your baby grows –Colostrum changes into what is called mature milk. By the third to fifth day after birth, this mature breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby continue to grow. It is a thinner type of milk than colostrum, but it provides all of the nutrients and antibodies your baby needs. Breast milk is easier to digest –For most babies — especially premature babies— breast milk is easier to digest than formula. The proteins in formula are made from cow’s milk and it takes time for babies’ stomachs to adjust to digesting them. Breast milk fights disease –The cells, hormones and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness. This protection is unique; formula cannot match the chemical makeup of human breast milk. In fact, among formula-fed babies, ear infections and diarrhea are more common. Formula-fed babies also have higher risks of enterocolitis a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants, Lower respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetis. Some research shows that breast feeding can also reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and atopic dermatitis (a type of skin rash) in babies. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
    Mothers also benefit from breast feeding. Life can be easier when you breastfeed –Breastfeeding may take a little more effort than formula feeding at first. But it can make life easier once you and your baby settle into a good routine. Plus, when you breastfeed, there are no bottles and nipples to sterilize. You do not have to buy, measure, and mix formula. And there are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night! You can satisfy your baby’s hunger right away when breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can save money. Breastfed babies are also sick less often, which can lower health care costs. Breastfeeding can feel great –Physical contact is important to newborns. It can help them feel more secure, warm, and comforted. Mothers can benefit from this closeness, as well. Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time to bond. The skin-to-skin contact can boost the mother’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps milk flow and can calm the mother. Breastfeeding can be good for the mother’s health, too –Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of these health problems in women: Type 2 diabetes, cancer, Ovarian cancer, postpartum depression. Many studies have reported greater weight loss for breastfeeding mothers than for those who don’t. But more research is needed to understand if a strong link exists.

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