Breast is Best by Kristin Casas, Licensed Lactation Councelor

health benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is more than just another option to feed your baby. Among the hundreds of kinds of formula, to include milk-based, soy-based or even organic, breast milk is still the best food you can provide your child. With that being said, although breastfeeding is not "just another option"; whether or not to breastfeed is a choice.

Breastfeeding provides everything a baby needs, both physically and emotionally, while producing happier, healthier babies in the process. God created our bodies to produce the perfect nutrition for our perfect gifts which He also gave us. Breast milk provides everything a baby needs physically to survive; it is easier for the newborn to digest than formula and the baby will take in the exact amount it needs, no under or over feeding, like what is possible with formula.

Since God created breast milk to be the food for babies, stomach ailments such as reflux, lactose intolerance and breast milk allergies are virtually nonexistent, thus making happier babies. Breastfeeding also makes the perfect amount of milk. There is no need to wonder how much your baby is drinking because of the miraculous supply and demand technique your breasts provide. The more the baby eats the more milk you produce and vice-versa. In formula feeding you can easily over feed your baby causing upset tummies and spitting up. Too much spitting up is bad for the baby's esophagus due to the acid in the baby's stomach.

Breastfeeding allows you to provide your baby the food it needs now when he or she is hungry because there is nothing to prepare plus breast milk is always at the right temperature. In bottle feeding you have to mix water and powder to get the right consistency so it is not lumpy; the shaking of the bottle can create bubbles which could create gas in the baby's tummy. The bubbles may cause tummy troubles once again and cause the baby to be fussy. Not to mention you have to make sure the milk is at the right temperature.

The ease of night feeding is also a pro in the choice to breastfeed. Having a safe co-sleeper makes this an even easier choice because mother does not even need to get out of bed and can still feed her baby. Many moms who choose breastfeeding and co-sleeping with a safe co-sleeper often report feeling less tired than mothers who formula feed because mothers choosing to formula feed still need to get out of bed to prepare the bottle.

Mothers are also able to pass down immunity to their babies through breast milk; this immunity aides the infant's body to defend against infections of all kinds. When the mother is exposed to a particular illness her body develops antibodies to this illness. The antibodies the mother produces are passed to the baby through her breast milk. This is critical to the newborn whose immune system is still very immature.

In many countries breast milk is vital to the survival of their infants because there are no other options available and even when formula is available, clean water may not be. In countries where there are not any other options, a mother who struggles with breastfeeding will actually allow other mothers to nurse her baby to prevent the child from starving to death, these nursing mommas are called wet nurses. Here in America we have many options; however breastfed babies are still healthier, physically, because human breast milk was created for human babies, the same goes for all mammals.

Breastfeeding is the link that seals a bond between mother and baby as well. When a baby's hunger needs are met they develop a trust in the mother that she will provide for the baby. Physically, breastfeeding brings your baby closer to you and allows for the skin to skin contact that is so important to newborn babies. Emotionally, when you are able to feed your child and hold them this close and look directly into their eyes as they look back at you, there is no stronger connection.

The choice to use formula can hinder the bond between mother and baby because it is too easy to prop the baby up and allow the baby to feed him or herself. If a baby is propped up with a bottle the baby no longer gets this one on one attention from mother and lacks in the feeling of security a baby feels when being held, not to mention is at an increased chance of ear infections and possibly choking.

benefits from breastfeeding Breastfeeding also provides for proper eye development. When the baby nurses on one side one eye is closed while the other eye's muscles work to focus. Then the next feeding the baby is on the other breast allowing the other eye's muscle to work to focus. Another advantage to breastfeeding is less to carry in general. Other than a couple diapers and wipes you can get away with a much smaller bag if you do not have to lug around bottles and formula and water.

Breastfeeding provides a number of advantages to a community as well. The cost advantages that are reduced by breastfeeding include; not needing to aid in providing formula for low income families on programs such as WIC as well as reductions in the cost of health care; since breastfeeding helps protect babies from such illnesses as ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and allergies. There are health benefits for mom as well, to include a reduced possibility of cancer; such as breast and ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding is also eco friendly. There are no additional disposable products needed to breastfeed as there are in bottle feeding. With bottle feeding you need bottles and nipples, cleaning brushes, the cans the formula comes in, containers to carry the formula in, sterile water bottles, and all the fancy stuff companies come up. Another disadvantage to the environment when one chooses to bottle feed is the amount of energy used in the production of formula. There are no additional energy requirements on the planet in the production of breast milk like there are in the production of formula.

It is obvious that breast milk is the best choice in nutrition for babies. The physical and emotional needs are met, the health benefits to both mother and baby are exceptional, and the community and environment also reap the benefits. Mothers may find themselves getting more sleep, a happier baby, while carrying around less and saving more money. How long one chooses to breastfeed is strictly personal but even as little as one day is better than to have not done it at all and of course the longer one can breastfeed the more benefits that will be received by mother, baby, the community and the environment.

Kristin Casas is a stay at home mother of two who have both been breastfed. She has her license in lactation counseling and spends most of her extra time working with a breastfeeding peer-support group, helping new moms in their decision to breastfeed.