When you are expecting a child, there are a number of decisions to make. Some of these decisions include what clothes to buy, what color to paint the baby’s room, what child-rearing books to purchase, and what to name the boy or girl. On top of all of this, expecting couples must also decide whether or not to breast feed the newborn or use baby formula.
Before making this critical decision, you should be aware of the health effects of breast feeding versus formula. While it does provide a number of enticing benefits, there are safety issues to be addressed also.
Breast Feeding: Benefits for Infants
Breast feeding usually occurs from birth to the first six months of age. After this, solid food is generally introduced and breast feeding can continue up until the age of two. Human breast milk is biologically the healthiest for babies, and most physicians strongly recommend breastfeeding for at least some extended period of time.
Breast milk has the perfect balance of fat, water, sugar and protein for a baby’s growth and development. Because breastfeeding requires approximately five hundred calories a day, it also helps the mother lose weight after childbirth.
During breast feeding, antibodies pass from the mother to the child thus boosting the infant’s immune system. This is perhaps one of the most critical benefits of breast milk. Babies that were breast fed rather than formula fed showed less susceptibility to infections and lower casualty rates.
A clinical study found that breastfeeding infants cut their risk of death from SIDS by half up to the age of one.
A significant amount of research has found that breastfed babies show higher intelligence later in life. This may be because of the transfer of DHA (thought to be a crucial element in proper brain development) from mother to child. Some studies have disputed this claim or shown no correlation, however.
Breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes and obesity later in life. These effects have been rather consistent, though perhaps less pronounced than initially publicized.
Recent clinical data has suggested that a breastfed infant is less likely to develop allergies down the road, though this research is still being analyzed and verified.
Breast Feeding: Benefits For the Mother
Besides helping the mother lose weight after childbirth, breast feeding also releases hormones that strengthen the maternal bond. These hormones also help the mother relax and when released shortly after childbirth, contract the uterus thus stopping it from bleeding.
Other positive health effects observed with breast feeding include a reduced risk for ovarian, breast, and endometrial cancers, and a reduced risk for metabolic syndrome.
Breast Feeding for Infants: The Risks
There are certain considerations to make before opting to breastfeed. During the breastfeeding process, for example, the mother must effectively act like she is still pregnant when choosing what to consume. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other drugs can all taint the breast milk of a lactating mother.
Additionally, certain diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis can be passed on from mother to child through breastfeeding. While it is likely that such diseases would have been detected or passed on through pregnancy, it may still be a good idea to consult with a doctor after birth.