Breast Milk: Most Complete Food for Babies
When it comes to the nourishment of your newborn baby, every health practitioner will most definitely suggest breastfeeding. Although there are a wide array of infant formulas that promise to provide the infant the vitamins and nutrients needed, the human milk offers the infant the most nutritional value that cannot be topped by any other milk in the market.
[box type="note"]The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months. From here on, breast milk will search as a supplement up until they reach 12 months.[/box]
Breast Milk Composition
Human milk contains the proteins whey and casein. These two proteins are the two kinds that are easiest to digest, perfect for the immature digestive system of babies. Human milk also contains fats that are a major source of calories for the baby. Fats are also important in the development of a baby’s brain, nervous system, and retina.
Lactose, their main source for carbohydrate, controls the population of unhealthy bacteria in the baby’s stomach to improve the absorption of essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium.
Among the vitamins and minerals that are present in milk, one of the most significant ones is what is known as colostrum. Sometimes called “liquid gold.” this is a form of milk that the mother will produce during the first few days after the birth of the baby. This is thick, yellowish, and only comes in miniscule amounts but this is teeming with nutrients and anti-bodies that will be very beneficial in the development.
After a couple of days, colostrum turns to mature breast milk and will then contain the perfect combination of water, protein, sugar, and fat. Commercial baby formulas have actually tried to replicate such nutritional complexity and combination to no avail.
Benefits of Breast Milk
Extended and exclusive breastfeeding has shown to contribute in the baby’s cognitive development, giving a boost on the child’s performance in a variety of intelligence tests. The fatty aids found in it are also very helpful in their proper growth and development. Most importantly is the emotional bonding during the actual act of breastfeeding. This has shown to also contribute to the cognitive development of the baby.
Breastfeeding also reduced the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing allergies. Babies who were exclusively breast-fed during the first three months of their life decreased their chances at accumulating juvenile diabetes to 34 percent while those that lasted for six months are 8 times less likely to develop cancer. This was according the results of a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The vitamins and nutrients that are present in the milk will actually depend on the mother’s own intake of vitamins and nutrients, given that her body is the one that is producing it. For the breastfeeding mother, she needs to take additional vitamins to ensure that her baby’s gets a good healthy dose of it as well.
There are some cases that the mother is not able to breastfeed or that her milk does not provide the baby with adequate nutrition and hydration. In such cases, the doctor might recommend that the baby be given infant formula, or at least supplement it with the breast milk.
American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines:
- “Term, healthy infants have sufficient iron for the first 4 months of life. Because human breast milk contains very little iron, breastfed infants should be supplemented with 1 mg/kg per day of oral iron beginning at 4 months until iron-rich complementary foods (such as iron-fortified cereals) are introduced.
- Formula-fed infants will receive adequate iron from formula and complementary foods. Whole milk should not be used before 12 months.
- Infants ages 6 to 12 months need 11 mg of iron a day. When infants are given complementary foods, red meat and vegetables with high iron content should be introduced early. Liquid iron supplements can be used if iron needs are not met by formula and complementary foods.”
Source for above: healthychildren.org