This year, the U.S. Surgeon General has issued a call to action for all of us “to better protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”
This is an important effort because breastfeeding has many advantages over formula feeding.
For a large chunk of the last century, formula feeding of infants was the norm.
Only recently have most newborns in the U.S. started off by being breastfed.
Still, three months after they deliver, more than two of every three breastfeeding moms have started to feed their babies formula.
By six months after delivery, more than half of moms have abandoned breastfeeding.
It is still fairly rare in our country for 1-year-olds and toddlers to be breastfed.
Which is too bad because breastfeeding infants rather than giving them formula has many benefits.
Cost: Obviously, it is cheaper to breastfeed – breast milk costs only what food a lactating mother eats and drinks (along with prenatal vitamins).
Ease of Use: You don’t have to prepare breast milk. It lets down automatically and is always at the correct temperature.
Breast pads and pumps cost money, but in the long run they are cheaper than buying formula.
Environment: All of those formula cans have to go somewhere.
Heating the formula uses energy, and factories have to make, pack and ship the formula.
Breasts are portable and reusable for multiple children.
Health: The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced with breastfeeding.
The number of ear infections in infants who are breastfed is cut in half.
Breast milk decreases the duration and severity of gastroenteritis in nursing infants. These babies are less likely to be hospitalized for lower respiratory tract infections.
Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, eczema and two types of leukemia.
The chance of having childhood obesity and later developing type 2 diabetes mellitus is also decreased.
Women who breastfeed decrease their risk of later developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. They also lose their pregnancy weight easier.
Perfect Food: With the exception of vitamin D supplements in some climates and cultures (and a brief window of iron supplementation for some babies), breast milk gives babies all that they need to grow and be healthy for the first six months of life.
Formulas strive to become more like breast milk – never the other way around.