Is Human Milk Still Best For Babies?

By in Food & Nutrition, Health & Safety on 06 November 2008

Human breast milk is the ideal food for full-term babies. Formula feeding is only a substitute or supplement to breast milk when the need arises.

Most commercial formulas are cow-milk based which are already modified to approximate breast milk, while others are fortified to provide maximum supplementation of nutrients to the baby.

Here is a table showing a good comparison between human milk and cow milk.

Constituent Human Milk Cow Milk
Calories 20 cal/oz 20 cal/oz
Carbohydrates 7% lactose 4.5% lactose
Protein 1.5% (*whey/casein 78:25) 3.3% (whey/casein 22:78)
Fats 3.5% (maternal diet dependent) 3-4% (pooled)
Vitamins Low in Vit K (diet dependent) Low in Vit C, D
Minerals Better absorption of iron **Low in iron & copper
Bacterial content Uncontaminated Harmless bacteria
Digestability Easily digested Same after 45 days

* whey is the liquid part of milk separating from the curd
casein is the protein obtained from milk by the action of acids or rennin
** Most formula milk are already iron fortified.

The following are the advantages of breast milk feeding.

1) Breastmilk is premixed at the right temperature and concentration and
is available anytime

2) Breastmilk has immunologic factors such as IgA, lactoglobulin and maternal
macrophages.

Babies start producing their own antibodies as early as of 6 months of age.
Prior to this age, their immune system is low, making them defenseless
against infections. Hence, they easily get sick. However, if the baby is
breastfed, antibodies from the mother are passively transferred to the baby,
which significantly boosts the baby’s immune system, warding him off
against infections. This is one of the advantages of breast milk which makes
it incomparable and superior compared to formula milk.

3) Breastmilk decreases the incidence of allergic diseases

4) Breastfeeding also promotes mother-infant bonding

5) A maternal advantage of breastfeeding is that it helps the mother return rapidly to her pre-pregnancy weight with faster uterine regression.

6) Supplementation of other nutrients is rarely needed in breast-fed infants

7) Breastfeeding is economical.

Due to scientific research, many more essential nutrients that can maximize the baby’s growth potentials are discovered. One example is the fortification of infant formulas with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the major fatty acid in the brain, which has been found to be essential for brain growth and better vision. Thus, it is not surprising to see a continuous flow of new infant formulas coming out in the market which are highly fortified with new components, backed by scientific studies. But even so, human breast milk is still the best for babies.

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