The arrival of a newborn brings about a myriad of decisions. Cloth or store-bought diapers, co-sleeping or crib, and what parent gets what particular shift during the night are just a few. However, one of the most important and personal choices is how the little one will be receiving his or her required nourishment. The options are few until the baby can reach an age to consume and properly digest mass produced dairy products. This usually leaves mothers with a decision between a formula based diet or breastfeeding. Not only does breastfeeding positively impact the lives of both mother and child, the benefits of breast milk over formula are numerous: they include health, emotional, and financial benefits along with the convenience of non-preparation.
There are many health benefits to breastfeeding for the child as well as for the mother. In the first hours after birth, the mother’s body makes colostrum which is often referred to as “liquid gold.” Colostrum is very thick and is only available in small amounts, which is all that a newborn baby can handle. The colostrum is present about two weeks after giving birth; it is very concentrated during the first three to four days and then gradually decreases as the mature milk comes in (What is Colostrum?). While breast milk changes to meet the developmental requirements, the manufacturers of formula do not offer a change until the baby reaches twelve months of age.
In Kathleen Huggins’ book The Nursing Mother’s Companion, she informs her readers that colostrum protects the baby’s intestines from bacteria and illness (38). Huggins also explains, “Colostrum stimulates the baby’s early bowel movements. The black, tarry first stools, called meconium, contain bilirubin, the substance that causes newborn jaundice” (38). Since colostrum aides in ridding the body of bilirubin, the more often the baby drinks the mother’s milk, the chance of having a severe case of jaundice is reduced (Huggins 38).
Colostrum also aids in the rapid growth that is necessary in babies born prematurely. When babies are born early, they skip the extreme growth that happens in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Taylor & Francis published an article that says, “Preterm infants are not only difﬁcult to nourish, but they also have minimal energy reserves, as they have missed late-pregnancy transplacental nutrition and trophic hormonal boosting for rapid somatic growth” (Koivisto, Kokkonen and Saarela). Additionally, premature or sick babies who may have heart or lung problems may only be able to take in small amounts of milk at a time. The colostrum naturally protects against infections, and since preemies are at a greater risk, the colostrum gives them an extra boost. Mothers who give birth to preemies make colostrum longer than full-term mothers. Giving them hind milk, the milk that comes out last and is high-calorie/high-fat milk, will help the babies gain weight (Huggins 209). According to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, “one study showed that premature infants who had been given human milk scored significantly higher on IQ tests at age 7 ½ and 8 years of age than children who had received formula (La Leche League 7). The same has also been said for full-term babies. Furthermore, the proteins in breast milk are easier to digest and absorb. The proteins, whey and casein, are found in both formula and breast milk but have different percentages. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding explains, that “the large amount of casein protein in cow’s milk forms large, tough, rubbery curds that are difficult for the human baby to digest” (337). This is why babies will have longer periods between bottles of formula than babies who are drinking mother’s milk. Breast milk has a larger amount of whey protein which is easier for the baby to digest and has more nutritional value (La Leche 337). While the proteins in breast milk are easier to absorb, they also protect...