Why breastfeeding is essential for 2 years?
Breast milk is the best food for a newborn child. Therefore, breastfeeding is the best alternative for children. Despite the commercial marketers claiming that artificial milk is better than breastmilk, researchers have proven over and over again that they can never outweigh the benefits of breast milk.
According to the World Health Organization’s current guidelines, exclusive breastfeeding for a baby is essential until the end of 6 months. At the beginning of the 7th month, complementary foods should be introduced to the baby. However, a continuation of breastfeeding until the end of the 2nd year of life is essential for the ideal growth and development of the child.
What is Colostrum?
Mothers should initiate breastfeeding their infants within the 1st hour of life of their baby, or at least within 6 hours of life. The 1st produced milk, a yellowish-green thick fluid, is the colostrum. It contains a high amount of antibodies, vitamin A and zinc which aid in the proper development of the brain.
Composition of Breast Milk and the Benefits of Breastfeeding
Even the act of breastfeeding provides numerous benefits to the newborn child. It improves the thermoregulation of the baby and facilitates cardiorespiratory stability. It lets the baby be colonized with non-pathogenic maternal skin flora. Most importantly, it enhances the bonding between the mother and the baby.
Breastmilk contains all the nutrients required for the baby in adequate amounts. The biological forms of these nutrients in breastmilk are easily absorbable when compared to the biological forms found in formula milk. Up to 6 months, breastmilk alone can support the development of the baby unless the child is having any predisposing condition that necessitates additional nutrients.
Breastmilk contains high amounts of lactose. In the intestine of the baby, it’s broken down to glucose and galactose. Glucose provides energy to infants, while galactose helps in the development of the brain and nervous system. High lactose content in breast milk is thought to be the key factor behind better intellectual and cognitive development among breastfed children. Scientists have found that breastfed children have an average of 7-10 points higher IQ scores when compared to formula-fed children.
In addition, the fermentation of lactose by intestinal flora inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria inside the intestine. IgA antibodies, lactoferrin, and lysozymes in breastmilk further aid this process by destroying the harmful pathogens present in the gastrointestinal system. These effects reduce the occurrence of necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a fatal disease among newborn infants.
The occurrence of allergies among breastfed children is significantly less. Conversely, allergic diseases like asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema are common among formula milk-fed babies. Breastfeeding even reduces the risk of the development of adult-onset chronic diseases like diabetes. Prospective researchers have proven that the occurrence of respiratory, lung illnesses, and dental caries is significantly less among breastfed children.
The benefits of breastfeeding are not just for the baby, but also for the mother. It improves post-pregnancy weight reduction. It enhances the hormonal functions of the body including the functions of insulin. Breastfeeding reduces the occurrence of breast and cervical cancers (39% and 26% less respectively). Also, breastfeeding is an effective contraceptive method as it temporarily halts the menstrual cycle.
Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding
Formula milk doesn’t have any benefit over breast milk. Instead, it has many disadvantages. Some of them are:
- Higher prevalence of necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns
- Higher risk of development of adult-onset chronic illnesses
- Higher incidence of allergies like cow-milk allergy, asthma, eczema, etc.
- Higher incidence of severe respiratory tract infections (17 times more common)
- Potential to contain dangerous pathogens – powdered milk can contain heat resistant pathogens which were not cleared by the sterilization process
- Lower IQ scores compared to breastfed children
The composition of formula milk is different from that of breast milk. Usually, the nutrient density of formula milk is higher than breast milk. The absorptive capacity of those nutrients is also different. Due to these reasons, formula-fed children have a different composition of nutrients in their blood. This may negatively affect the tissue metabolism which may later manifest as chronic diseases. Since the absorbability of the nutrients in formula milk is poor, most remain inside the intestine. This acts as an excellent medium for pathogenic bacterial colonization.
Having said that, breastfeeding has several disadvantages in some special instances. For example; if the mother is having a disease like HIV or Chickenpox, the child may also acquire the infection from the mother. But that is a special and unexpected case. Apart from that, breastfeeding is essential and beneficial for both the mother and the baby.