The breast v bottle debate has raged since the advent of infant formula, but medical experts don’t advise that “Breast is Best” without good reason. While the decision to breastfeed or bottle feed is intensely personal, and based on a variety of different factors, the fact remains that breast milk is the best means by which an infant will receive total nutrition in the first six months to one year of his/her life. Breastfeeding also offers mothers and infants a host of other benefits, including an environmentally friendly alternative to bottles and formula.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby
Without a doubt, breast milk is the most complete nutritional option available to babies. This natural formulation contains the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that babies need to grow and develop as well as digestive enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and hormones that round out a baby’s diet. Antibodies from the mother will also be present in breast milk, which will help children fight infections in these early months. In fact, research indicates that the consumption of breast milk lowers the risks of infants developing:
- Ear, stomach and intestinal infections.
- Gas and/or vomiting after feeding.
- Eczema and other skin problems.
- Asthma and allergies.
- Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and tooth decay in later life.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Mum
In addition to providing vital benefits for babies, breastfeeding offers a variety of benefits for Mum. Not only does breastfeeding provide a physical and emotional connection between infants and mothers, but it has also been noted that breastfeeding:
- Burns calories, meaning Mum can fit back into her pre-pregnancy wardrobe more quickly and easily.
- Shrinks the uterus, again helping Mum quickly and easily return to her pre-pregnancy shape.
- Leads to fewer incidences of pre-menopausal breast cancer in mothers.
- Reduces mothers’ chances of being diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer.
- Means Mum can pack a smaller baby bag without having to bring along bottles and formula.
- Allows families to travel comfortably without having to worry about finding somewhere to heat bottles and formula.
- Plumps up the family bank account with money saved from not having to buy the equipment and formula needed to successfully bottle feed.
- Saves families extra room at home as there is no need to store a supply of bottle feeding equipment.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Earth
Breastfeeding is also the most environmentally friendly of all of the feeding options available for babies. As milk is produced by the mother and consumed directly by the baby, there is little waste involved in this natural process. This translates to environmentally friendly savings on:
- The pollution and packaging created by formula factories.
- The pollution created by shipping formula to retailers.
- The packaging and plastic used in all equipment, bottles and formula.
- The formula that must be discarded after it has been left sitting out for more than an hour, or is left unconsumed 24 hours after having been prepared.
Breastfeeding offers benefits for babies, mothers, parents and even the Earth. Physical, emotional, monetary, convenience and environmental benefits abound, and doctors agree that breast milk is the only option that provides complete nutrition for infants in the first six months to one year of life. Though parents may decide to bottle feed for different reasons, all things being equal it is hard to argue that breast isn’t best!