From: The Wellness Report
Sponsored by the Michigan Chiropractic Council
The Miracle of Mother’s Milk
In the past 20 years, researchers have been examining the unique and complex features of breast milk in an effort to determine why it is so superior to cow’s milk and infant formulas. The composition of human milk, like that of many other mammals, is designed specifically for the needs of the human infant. Before birth, the mother provides all the nutritional needs of the infant through the placenta, and after birth these nutrients are transferred through the colostrum and milk. These nutrients include growth factors, hormones, enzymes, and immuno-protective substances that the infant cannot produce on its own, and which no infant formula can provide. The composition of mother’s milk is different for pre-term babies – it compensates for the extra needs that this infant has – than term babies; and composition of milk during any single feeding changes from the beginning of the feeding to the end, and daily as the infant grows. Even when mother’s nutrition is inadequate, and vitamin levels are low, these breast-fed babies absorb more nutrients and vitamins from this breast milk than even the “best” formulas. This is attributed to the enzymes in the milk that aid in digestion and absorption – which are not present in formulas, and is the reason why so many infants who are fed formulas end up colicky and full of gas.
Did You Know?
Each year, 1.5 million infant deaths worldwide could be prevented if mothers breastfed their babies exclusively for 6 months and continuing until age 2 according to the World Health Organization. In 1993, 55.9% of American mothers breastfed their babies in the hospital, but only 19% were still breast feeding their babies at 6 months of age. New recommendations state that breastfeeding is beneficial for the whole first year, and even beyond.
A Lifetime of Benefits
Dr. Anne L. Wright of the University of Arizona has been busy examining the benefits of breastfeeding infants on their immune system. Looking at immune response in children of varying ages, and comparing the breastfed children to bottle fed children, she found that the immune systems of the breastfed children – at ages up to 11 years – were still stronger than their bottle fed counterparts. This implies that breast milk not only boosts the immune system of the infant, but has long-term effects as well.
Ear infections are the most common infant and child illness, as any parent will tell you. A study published in the October 1997 edition of Pediatrics reports that exclusive breast feeding greatly decreases the risk of having ear infections – even if only done for the first three months of life. They found statistically speaking that formula fed infants have a twofold elevated risk of first episodes of otitis media compared to infants exclusively breastfed for 6 months.