Parents are often told they should breastfeed, but not why.  Isn’t formula like breastmilk nowadays anyway?  Does it really make any difference?  What are the reasons for breastfeeding?

We know that in breastmilk there are a myriad of constituents; live cells secrete hormones, growth factors and other substances that regulate the immune response.  These cells mean milk is a living tissue like blood, with the ability to influence the development of other tissues in the body.  In the early weeks of breastfeeding there are as many white cells in milk as there are in blood; engulfing troublesome organisms, viruses, fungi and tumour cells.

Research cannot prove something 100%, this is not it’s function; it can only provide highly probable outcomes when repeat patterns are observed.   What it does show is that not breastfeeding baby has been heavily indicated to cause many different conditions, both in the short term and in later life.

Based on an original article “100 reasons to breastfeed” by Leslie Burby. Adapted for the UK with extra reasons and references added as new research becomes available.   This material is © Milk Matters. All rights reserved.

Not breastfeeding has been linked to increased risk to baby of:

  • Some childhood cancers.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Gross motor development delay.
  • Breast cancer in later life.
  • Health implications from bottles that contain Bisphenol A.
  • Reduced IQ.
  • Sickness and diarrhoea bugs including: Gastroenteritis, E-Coli and E -Sakazakii (which can lead to Meningitis).
  • Crohns Disease (a chronic inflammatory bowel disease).
  • Both type 1 and 2 Diabetes.
  • Adverse outcomes both in the short and long term for premature infants.
  • Low birth weight babies display reduced cognitive development
  • Allergies.
  • Asthma.
  • Excema.
  • Otitis Media (ear infections).
  • Infections.
  • Being hospitalised with Pneumonia or Bronchiolitis.
  • Respiratory tract infections.
  • Bacterial Meningitis.
  • Some vision defects.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Delayed maturation of intestinal development; increasing risks from pathogens and other potentially harmful agents.
  • Obesity.
  • Pulmonary distress whilst feeding.
  • Ulcerative colitis (intestinal disorder).
  • Jaundice.
  • Suboptimal oral, dental and jaw development.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Delayed speech development.
  • Constipation and digestion problems.
  • High cholesterol in later life.
  • Spit up and reflux.
  • Inguinal hernia.
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Delayed hand-to-eye coordination.
  • Higher blood pressure in childhood & later life.
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque build up inside arteries).
  • Coeliac Disease (gluten intolerance).
  • Mental health problems in later life.

Not breastfeeding has been linked to increased risk to mother of:

  • Breast cancer.
  • Post partum haemorrhage.
  • Ovarian cancer.
  • Endometrial cancer.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Cardiovascular problems.
  • Postnatal Depression.
  • Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Anemia (iron deficiency).

What else?

  • Breast milk is always ready and does not need strict prep guidelines; powdered formula is NOT sterile and can be contaminated with harmful bacteria.
  • Breastfeeding satisfies baby’s emotional needs.
  • Pre-term breastmilk is specially tailored to best suit the needs of premature infants.
  • The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend it as “an unequalled way of providing ideal food for healthy growth and development”.
  • Breastfeeding baby helps decrease insulin requirements in diabetic mothers.
  • Breastfeeding may help stabilise the progress of maternal endometriosis.
  • Breastmilk protects against hemophilus b. bacteria as much as 5-10 years later.
  • Non breastfed babies require longer pre- and post-surgical fasting, as breastmilk is considered a “clear fluid” like water.
  • Not breastfeeding has been linked with increased sick days for employed parents.
  • Breastfed infants show better serum and secretory responses to oral and parenteral vaccines.
  • Breastfeeding contributes to optimal child spacing, many exclusively breastfeeding women do not ovulate for the 6 months or so following the birth of a baby.
  • Breastfeeding in the first 6 months can be used as contraception.  Called the LAM contraception method (exclusively breastfeeding with other criteria) it is around 97% effective.
  • After the early weeks, breastfeeding is easier than making substitutes.
  • Breastmilk is free; alternatives costs upward of £800 per year in the UK. Not including bottles, teats, sterilisers etc.
  • Not breastfeeding costs the government (and taxpayers) millions of pounds.  For gastroenteritis ALONE, If all babies were breastfed this would be equivalent to saving almost £300,000 a year for the average district or £35 million for the country as a whole.
  • Non breastfed babies require more doctor visits.
  • Breastmilk always has the right proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein; changing each feed.
  • Breastmilk acts like a natural tranquiliser for baby.
  • Breastfeeding acts like a natural tranquiliser for mum.
  • Breastfeeding releases lots of hormones linked with bonding for both mum and baby.
  • Not breastfeeding is linked with increased rates of maternal abuse.
  • Formula smells and tastes unpleasant.
  • Breastfeeding exposes your baby to different tastes and flavours pre starting solids.
  • Non breastfed babies are more likely to die before their third birthday.  In 2010 the US reported 900 infant deaths directly due to substitutes.
  • Breastmilk is always the right temperature; no risk of burning, no waiting with a fussing baby.
  • Breastmilk substitutes are not environmentally friendly; wrappers, tins, bottle sand transportation.
  • Breastfeeding means no bottles to wash and carry.
  • No need to refrigerate;  breastmilk is always fresh.
  • Breastmilk provides natural pain relief for baby.
  • Human milk is the perfect food for a sick infant.
  • Non breastfeeding or supplementing mothers get LESS sleep.
  • Not breastfeeding means more equipment to maintain and store.
  • Breastmilk has never been recalled due to manufacturing or contamination problems.
  • Breastfeeding means no need to worry about which brand is better.
  • Breastfeeding means no need to worry about adding contaminated water.
  • Breastfed babies have great skin; scientists are currently studying using a constituent of breastmilk to treat acne.
  • Lack of breastfeeding may be associated with increased risk of multiple sclerosis in later life.
  • Breastfed babies display better social development.
  • Breastfeeding mothers spend less money on menstrual supplies & nappies.
  • Breastfeeding is a self confidence booster for mum.
  • Breast milk may help combat eye infections.
  • Breastfeeding means no worrying about the latest ingredient discovered to be missing from formula; at present approximately 100+ constituents can’t be replicated.
  • Breastmilk substitutes makes for BAD nappy changes.
  • Breastfed babies smell fantastic.
  • It’s what breasts are for – we are mammals because we make milk for our young.
  • Not breastfeeding may increase risk of schizophrenia.  Although Maternal schizophrenia is the strongest risk factor, no or early cessation (<2 weeks) of breastfeeding is also significantly related to later schizophrenia.
  • Non breastfed infants are more likely to wet the bed later on.  This may be due to delayed neurodevelopment, strongly linked to bed-wetting.
  • Not breastfeeding may increase autism risks or severity.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding, stating it should be continued for at least the first year of life.
  • Breast milk is known to protect against respiratory tract infections and cancers, even years after breastfeeding is done.
  • Non breastfed infants are at risk of aluminium exposure via breastmilk substitutes
  • Breastfeeding tied to stronger maternal response to baby’s cry

To see full article with comments for each point and full references.  Please  click here

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