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Expecting and new mothers are faced with many decisions in preparation for the care of their newborn baby, the decision to breastfeed, being among one of the most important ones. We’ve all heard the advice of family and friends that “breastfeeding is better for the baby”, but how true do we really know this to be?
The fact is, it is true. Medical research has shown human breast milk, over formula feeding, to benefit the infant in several ways. Some of those benefits include, improvement in gastrointestinal functioning, improvement in immune defenses, thereby reducing the occurrences of several acute illnesses, and enhancing the maternal-infant bonding, possibly reducing infant stress. Because of the proven health benefits to infants, many national health organizations have recommended exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first 6 months of life (i.e., Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, The World Health Organization.)
For infants, human breast milk enhances the maturity of the gastrointestinal tract. Certain components of breast milk, containing hormonal, enzymatic and immune properties, help to improve gastrointestinal growth and motility.
Infants receiving human breast milk, over formula feeding, have a decreased risk of certain acute illnesses. This is most likely due to the presence of maternal antibodies contained in the milk. Research shows, a lowered incidence of gastroenteritis, respiratory illnesses, and ear infections for breast-fed, over formula-fed infants.
Further, the lactation hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) are important components of the infant stress-axis, enhancing the infant’s positive response to stressors, through maternal-infant bonding.
So, in answering the question, “Is breast milk really better for the baby?”…the research would answer, Yes!
Suzanne Hall, MD (@drsuzyyhall)
Eastside Gynecology Obstetrics, PC
Find our Ob/Gyn offices in Macomb, Roseville, Grosse Pointe, Rochester MI