The benefits of breastfeeding are life-changing for both mother and child. Nothing else accomplishes the same things. Formula actually causes damage to the baby’s gut, immune system, neurological development.
Science is regularly discovering more and more ways in which these things is true, and this page lists many of them.
Breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding
Breastfeeding is not only nutritional, it is neurological support, it is a way of culturing the baby’s digestive track to develop correctly; it is a way for the baby to learn emotional connection while bonding to the mother; it is immune system support and much more. It is the way we human animals grow best. It is our biology that demands breastfeeding.
Formula provides almost none of this. The only thing in the list above that formula does provide at all is nutrition–which it does at a paltry, feeble, tragic level. Asking what is the best formula is like going to McDonald’s every day and trying to find the healthiest food there, when all their food is processed, old, full of chemicals, devitalized, and made of GMO ingredients.
Think of breastfeeding as going to the organic farmer’s market or natural foods store every day to buy the freshest vegetables that are full of life giving nutrients, the cleanest meats and eggs from humanely raised animals (fed on their natural diet), high quality, fresh nuts and seeds, and seasonal fruits. All chemical free, teeming with vital nutrients, and supportive of the highest level of health, wellness, and growth.
Sure, you can survive going to McDonald’s every day. Sort of. But it comes at a steep, steep price to your health, well-being and mental function in the world.
What is the best baby formula? There is no contest. It’s the formula developed and perfected by nature. It’s Mama’s own milk, with her skin close, and her warmth, and the baby finding her eyes and face.
Unfortunately, most doctors and government authorities are horribly informed on breastfeeding and natural birth by an education and lobbying system tied to the approval of industry. The opinions of such people change slowly, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Doctors sometimes even tell women they can’t make enough milk and encourage them toward formula when the mother is completely capable, but simply not getting the right support.
Note: Breastfeeding does not cause stretch marks or that rapid sagging of the breasts. Those result from pregnancy.
- Everyone sleeps better. The act of nursing releases sleeping aids that help both mom and baby to fall back to sleep quickly and rest well.
- It’s easy. Breast milk is always ready to serve. Nobody completely waking up in dead of night to heat bottles while baby is fussing and keeping mom awake.
- A lower stress level for the mother (at a time when she really needs it).
- Helps Mom regain her figure and lose weight, especially with prolonged breastfeeding.
- Healthy, optimal development of entire immune system in baby. This is the only way this happens.
- Protection from diseases before the baby’s immune system develops enough to produce its own antibodies. Ever seen those formula-fed babies who seem to take forever to kick a cold? If a breast-fed baby gets a cold, Mom automatically makes antibodies to the cold, which the baby then gets from the milk and wham! Baby gets better fast.
- Nutritional benefits of breast feeding: Breast milk is a living food, full of living things from Mom essential to starting Baby’s growth in ways you cannot see. The proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and other cofactors in breast milk are of the highest quality. You couldn’t buy anything close to this. All these unique things in breast milk are important for the baby to grow and develop correctly.
- Neurological: Breastfed babies move better and with better coordination, develop better thinking ability and higher IQ. Breastfeeding leads the mother to become more attuned to the baby’s emotional needs, and the act of nursing itself meets some of those needs profoundly.
- Digestive tract: Breastfeeding establishes healthy, probiotic gut bacteria in babies. This is only possible because it is a live food. This culturation of the intestines is necessary for healthy function. There may be other benefits in this area. Research is being done.
- Less diarrhea, fewer gastrointestinal infections.
- Less risk in adulthood of Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Reduced risk of getting diabetes.
- Better growth and strength for the child.
- Better eyesight.
- Fewer ear infections.
- Proper development of the shape of the mouth and shape of the face for beauty and good teeth. Less need for braces (orthodontia).
- Better ability to digest food well now and later in life.
- Better, healthier teeth.
- Colonization of the intestines with the life giving probiotic bacteria that we all need. This is weak or damaged in many of us today.
- Reduction or elimination of food and environmental allergies.
- Greater attachment of the child to the mother and the mother to the child.
- May reduce post-partum depression. Natural childbirth at home also has this effect.
- Greater sense of personal strength and ability for the child as it grows up. Less anxiety as well, for the rest of the life.
- Breast milk is species-specific for humans and changes according to the infant’s needs.
- NOT breastfeeding increases the risk of the mother getting breast cancer.
- Formula feeding increases baby girls’ risk of breast cancer later in life.
- Much, much less expensive.
There are many more benefits. Some of those we did not cover are listed in this webpage of breastfeeding benefits.
NOTE: The United Nations World Health Organization recommends strongly that mother breastfeed for a minimum of two years, preferably longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics changed their policy statement to be more in line with this.
If breastfeeding seems challenging because of your job, consider pumping. Some pumping techniques are easier than others, and many women do this for a year or longer. Make sure you get competent coaching.
Risks to babies from drinking formula
- It is mainly made up of sugar and oils and a protein such as cow’s milk, soy or whey, very complicated to digest and foreign to baby’s immature system. This is very poor nutritionally for the baby, even if they add a mountain of vitamins to it.
- Higher incidence of allergies, possibly severe. The earlier and more often an infant consumes a food other than breast milk, the more likely that child will become allergic to it. This is because their digestive systems are not developed enough for food (like formula) other than mother’s milk, and their immune system starts making antibodies to it, as though it were a disease. About one out of ten babies are born allergic to regular formula, made from cow milk. Giving just one bottle of formula to a baby, even home-made, organic formula, easily damages the baby’s digestive system, laying a groundwork for future allergies and inflammatory diseases like asthma, eczema, even ADHD.
- Formula contains no antibodies, no digestive enzymes, no immunoglobulin–all essential for the baby.
- It leaves their immune systems flailing and open to possible disease and infection. At birth, a baby’s immune system is immature, and it depends on antibodies and other immune factors that come from the mother’s breast milk to fight disease. At six months of age, the baby can begin to make some of these for itself, although not yet in a mature way.
- Toxic chemicals are found in formula at high enough levels to cause drops in sperm levels in lab rats and damage to the immune system. These poisons, such as phthalates, occur in plastics, vinyl flooring, paints, foil packaging, and other products, and have now worked their way into the environment in places like farm fields and river beds.
- Babies fed formula are 14 times more likely to be hospitalized in their first year.
- Babies fed formula are more prone to respiratory illnesses, ear infections and diarrhea.
- The sugary content of formula may set up the child to have poor instincts for eating in life. Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese.
- Babies miss out on the intense physical bond that allows them to develop a sense of trust in the world and leads to better behavior growing up, including in teenage years.
- Not breastfeeding deprives the mother of a major and profound bond between mother and child that would last the lifetime and help both to live in the best dimension of their relationship.
How Dr. Ginsburg supports breastfeeding
One of the most satisfying aspects of doctoring for Dr. Ginsburg is supporting expectant mothers who are interested in, or curious about breastfeeding, as well as those already doing it.
She will often say “Anything else you can do for your baby’s welfare pales in comparison with the benefits of breast feeding. Anything.”
She helps patients with breastfeeding difficulties, and provides coaching and information so moms have wise and well-informed guidance.
When necessary, Dr. Ginsburg steers patients to first rate lactation consultants. She herself received a lot of support and coaching as a La Leche League mom, and regularly connects patients to this excellent (and free) organization with chapters throughout America and the world.