The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates breastfeeding as the optimal form of infant feeding and currently recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. Although formula feeding is not identical to breastfeeding, formulas do provide appropriate infant nutrition. Both approaches are safe and healthy for your infant. Before you make your decision on this issue, be sure to thoroughly understand the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding and formula-feeding, and that you are aware of all the options available to you.

Breastfeeding Benefits For Your Baby

Human milk contains the protein, fat and sugar your baby needs to be healthy. It also contains many substances that benefit your baby’s immune system such as antibodies, enzymes, immune factors and white blood cells. These protect your baby against a wide variety of infections and diseases not only while breastfeeding, but for some time after weaning. Formula does not offer this protection.

For example, if Mom develops a cold while breastfeeding, it is likely that the cold germs will be passed along to the baby. However, the antibodies produced by Mom’s body to fight the cold infection will also be passed along through the breastmilk, and will help the infant conquer those cold germs quickly and effectively, and possibly avoid developing the cold altogether. This defense will significantly decrease the chances that your breastfeeding infant will suffer from illnesses such as bronchiolitis, ear infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea or certain types of meningitis.

Human milk contains human milk proteins, not the proteins of cow’s milk or soy milk which are forgein to an infant’s immune system and may stimulate an allergic response. Allergists recommend breastfeeding as a way to decrease the risk of developing food allergies and eczema in families prone to these conditions.

In addition, studies have shown that breastfeeding infants have a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), although reasons for this are not fully understood. Recent research indicates that breastfed babies are less likely to be obese later in life, and breastfed daughters have a decreased risk of breast cancer as adults.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom

  • Breastfeeding provides Mom and baby with valuable time to bond with one another. Many mothers feel fulfillment and joy from the physical and emotional experience of nursing their baby.
  • Women who breastfeed tend to lose pregnancy weight more quickly due to an increased number of calories burned while breastfeeding (average rate of 1-2 pounds per month). It is important to note that breastfeeding Moms need to consume an additional 300-500 calories per day to produce sufficient breastmilk for their baby.
  • Oxytocin, a hormone released while breastfeeding, helps to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding.
  • Studies have correlated breastfeeding with a reduced risk of both breast and ovarian cancer later in life. In addition, studies have indicated that breastfeeding may help to increase a woman’s bone mineral density which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.
  • Breastfeeding requires no preparation, no feeding equipment and costs nothing.
  • Most breastfeeding mothers put the feeling of maternal fulfillment at the top of their list of reasons for breastfeeding, as it provides a unique emotional experience for both nursing Mom and baby.

The decision to breastfeed is a personal decision. Though the benefits of breastfeeding are well established, some mothers are unable to breastfeed for health reasons or choose not to nurse their baby for individual reasons. If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding, or if you need additional information, please speak with your pediatrician. The providers at Pathway Pediatrics are committed to promoting breastfeeding while respecting your personal decisions as a parent.  We are always willing to help! 

For more information about breastfeeding, please refer to these helpful links:

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Pathway Pediatrics, LLC
Westfall Medical Park
2225 South Clinton Avenue, Suite 1A
Rochester, NY 14618
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