Kidalog/Baby Love Products, Camrose, Alberta, Canada

57 Reasons to Breastfeed
Grace Marcinkoski, Editor

The information below is not meant to offend the rare mom in a circumstance that precludes breastfeeding! Most women have a choice, and these are facts you will want to know. Too many mothers get this information too late. Your decision will have a life-long effect on your child!

Most women can breast feed. If you are having trouble, organizations such as La Leche League (LLL)will give you expert advice (Free), and lactation consultants will provide specialized help (for a fee, since they are professionals). You may be discouraged because your wondering if your milk supply is adequate, or because you have sore nipples, and so on. What you need most is information--and the best way to get it is from other women (LLL or a lactation consultant). The next best way is from breastfeeding books--sometimes you need to search through several books to find information on your particular situation.
Sometimes, women have been told by doctors or nurses that they cannot breast feed because of a medication they are on, or because of a medical condition they or their baby have. However, check with a breastfeeding group like LLL, or a lactation consultant, because in many of those cases breastfeeding IS possible. It is currently known that most medications have few side effects in breastfeeding infants because the dose transferred via milk is almost always too low to be clinically relevant, or it is poorly bioavailable to the infant. (Hale, 2000)
Sometimes well-meaning nurses will get new moms incorrectly started with breast-feeding. For example, one mom we know was given a nipple shield because she got sore nipples from baby not being latched on correctly. The nipple shield just complicated things and within a week and a half, this mom had switched to bottle-feeding. So, if you're having trouble, don't wait--get help from specialists--your local breastfeeding group or lactation consultant. If you ask other medical professionals, chances are that you will receive poor advice since breastfeeding is not their specialty. (Who would you choose to deliver your baby, an obstetrician or a dental surgeon?)

If your baby has a special condition such as cleft palate, experts can help you breastfeed.
Until recently, I thought that adoptive moms could produce some breast milk but would have to supplement with formula. But, according to an article in the Compleat Mother magazine, a study at a hospital in India showed that adoptive mothers CAN breastfeed. The mothers were given metoclopramide to induce lactation. The mothers began to lactate between 4-8 days. (Compleat Mother/Indian Pediatrics, 2000; 37:1114)

(My first baby was colicky, so I thought I didn't have enough milk. There was no one to ask for advice, so after two weeks, I switched to formula. The baby was still colicky, but I did not realize the benefits of breastfeeding, so I just continued with the formula. My second baby was 3 months old when I went back to work, and the amount of milk I was getting from pumping gradually decreased, so he was eventually totally on formula. If I had known the benefits of breastfeeding and the problems with baby formula, I would have done things differently!)

1. It costs about $150 Canadian a month to buy formula.* If you do not want to go back to work, breastfeeding will help because you do not have to include the expense of formula in your budget. (You can save even more by using cloth diapers for baby, and not needing to buy work clothes, transportation, and work lunch/coffee for yourself.)
*The figures are from an INFACT Canada survey, 1997. Costs vary depending what part of the country you live in. Using figures from an Enfalac formula pamphlet and from Dr. Sears "Baby Book", we calculated that a baby will use between 6000-12000 ounces of formula during the first 8 months of life. In our community, Camrose, a case of Enfalac concentrate (12 cans each containing 385 ml/13 oz of concentrate) sells for $24.77. The concentrate needs to be mixed with an equal amount of water. Doing the math, we found that an 8 month supply of formula would cost between $500-$1100 Canadian if it was purchased in our city. You can check your own local cost using this calculation method. These figures do not include cost of bottle liners and bottles.

2. Exclusive breastfeeding (no supplements for baby) provides 98% pregnancy prevention for the first six months after birth. (Kennedy et al. 1989) If you think you might fall into the remaining 2% and do NOT want another baby, use birth control!

3. Because an exclusively breastfeeding mother does not menstruate, she has a decreased risk of iron-deficiency anemia compared to a mother who bottle feeds. The amount of iron her body uses to produce breastmilk is less than the amount of iron lost in menstruation. (Institute of Medicine 1991)

4. *Breastfed children have higher IQs and intellectual ability than formula-fed children. And the longer the child is breastfed, the higher her IQ is likely to be, regardless of the family income and educational level. (Many studies: Morley et al. 1988; Morrow-Tlucak et al. 1988; Bauer et al. 1991; Taylor and Wadsworth 1984; Lucas et al. 1992; Fergusson et al. 1982; Horwood et al. 1998)
*Studies done with preemie babies show that babies fed their own mother's milk after birth had significantly higher IQ scores at age 7 1/2 to 8 years of age.

5. Breast milk contains antibodies that help baby fight off bacteria and viruses. When the baby is exposed to a germ, his mother's breast also is exposed to it, and the breast immediately manufactures a new antibody which is then passed on to baby through the breast milk! NOTE: Pumping your milk instead of actually nursing baby will not result in this transfer of anti-bodies.

6. Mother's milk contains live white cells (leukocytes) which destroy bacteria and viruses. Secretory IgA is an antibody made by the leukocytes. Interferon is a protein produced by leukocytes in breast milk to warn surrounding cells if a virus is present. Lysozyme is an enzyme in breast milk that fights infection. And there are more--breast milk is truly powerful!

7. The complex sugars in human milk curtail infections by preventing the binding of pathogens to the infant's cells.

8. You cannot overfeed a baby with breast milk.

9. Formula-fed babies get 3 to 4 times more ear infections than breast-fed babies. (Saarinen 1982)

10. Colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections are 4 times greater in formula-fed babies. (Wright et al. 1989)

11. Diarrheal infections occur 3 to 5 times more often in formula-fed babies. (Feachem and Koblinsky 1984).

12. Meningitis (which is sometimes fatal) and urinary tract infections are more common among formula-fed babies. (Pisacane et al. 1992; Cochi et al. 1986) The bacteria H. influenzas causes meningitis and bacteremia, and the risk is 4 to 16 times greater for formula-fed babies.

13. Formula-fed babies are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized for a serious infection than breast-fed babies. (Fallot et al. 1980)

14. During the first ten days of life, formula-fed infants are at risk for neonatal hypocalcemic tetany. This can result in twitching, convulsions and atypical seizures due to the high phosphate load in formula. This risk factor is 30 times higher for formula fed babies than breastfed babies.

15. Childhood diabetes (insulin-dependent) is linked to formula feeding. (Mayer et al. 1988) Studies have shown that when formula or cow's milk is introduced before the age of one year, the baby is more likely to develop diabetes.

16. The risk of developing lymphoma (cancer of the glands) during childhood is 5-8 times higher for babies fed formula or breastfed less than 6 months than for babies nursed longer. (Davis et al. 1988)

17. Breastfeeding helps program baby's body to metabolize cholesterol, which protects against heart disease later in life. Human milk is high in cholesterol, a fatty acid which is essential for baby to develop a strong nervous system and brain. Cows' milk formulas do not contain cholesterol.

18. Formula-fed babies are more likely to have allergies, including cow's milk and soy allergy. Formula-fed babies have more wheezing, colds, diarrhea, vomiting than breastfed babies. (Merrett et al. 1988) Colostrum helps the intestinal walls of a newborn "close" so that whole proteins cannot pass through the walls, causing allergic reactions.

19. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood asthma. A study done in Australia showed that infants breastfed for the first 4 months of life had a risk reduction of childhood asthma of at least 40%. (Oddy et al. 1999)

20. Formula-fed babies have a higher incidence of a stomach obstruction called pyloric stenosis, which requires surgical repair. (Habbick et al. 1989)

21. Intestinal diseases such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's are linked to formula feeding. (Greco et al. 1988; Koletzko et al. 1989)

22. In a study done in Belarus, infants exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months had a 40% lower risk of developing gastrointestinal infections and a 46% lower risk of developing atopic eczema. (Kramer et al., JAMA #285, 2001)

23. Breastfeeding protects against diarrhea. Diarrhea kills 500 infants and young children each year in the USA. Mother's milk contains lactose and a bifidus factor which encourages "good bacteria" in baby's intestines, and which discourages bacteria that cause diarrhea.

24. Breastfeeding protects against fatal infant botulism. (Arnon 1986)

25. Breastfeeding increases a child's bone mineral density--stronger bones!

26. Crib death (SIDS) risk is 3.7 to 5 times greater for formula-fed babies. (Mitchell et al. 1991) Infant formulas are low in tryptophan, which is needed for the body to make serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which regulates sleep, among other things. Researchers said that they have found reduced serotonin levels in the brain of infants who have died of SIDS, as well as other changes in the availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. (Journal of Childhood Neurology 6, no.4 , 335-39, Oct/91)
Breast milk is high in tryptophan.

Experts cannot agree on the exact cause of SIDS, but various studies tell us what the risk factors are. Parents can therefore decrease the risk that their baby may die of SIDS.

27. Formula feeding is associated with autism, learning disabilities, and speech problems. (Several studies: Broad and Duganzich 1983; Dorner and Grychtolik 1978; Collipp et al. 1983; Tanoue and Oda 1989)

28. Breastfed babies have fewer cavities. Night nursings do not contribute to cavities since the milk flow stops if baby dozes off and stops sucking.

29. Formula lacks DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid in breastmilk, and formula lacks other essential fatty acids necessary for proper brain and visual development.

30. The amino acid balance in mother's milk promotes brain growth, whereas cows' milk-based formulas have amino acids that promote growth of muscle and fat tissue.

31. Breastmilk contains mucin, an acid-based protein that prevents intestinal illness in baby.

32. Formula may contain up to 600 times the amount of aluminum found in breastmilk. (Bishop et al. 1989, and Health Canada study) In some cases soy-based formulas have had as much as 1000 times the amount of aluminum found in breast milk.

33. Formula may contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead. Also 20% of U.S. homes have tap water contaminated with lead. If this water is boiled to sterilize it for formula, this increases the lead levels even more. Lead poisoning causes brain and nervous system damage, kidney damage, and more.

34. There have been cases where formula has been contaminated with bacteria. (That's one reason all formula is assigned with a batch number.) Recent recalls include a recall of Isomil because defects in the can lids allowed contamination, Enfamil because the cans actually contained adult supplement, Follow-up because it was lumpy and curdled. Other recalls were because formula concentrate was accidentally labelled "do not add water", formula that had missing or inadequate nutrients, and formula with glass particles in it.

35. Recently, formula-fed babies were exposed to excessive concentrations of vitamin D in formulas sampled for it. Seven of ten samples contained >200% of label claims; one had 419% of the stated label claim. Vitamin D is toxic in high doses.

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36. Formula contains phthalates (a chemical used in manufacturing plastic), which cause problems with the reproductive tract, including infertility, also liver damage, and they are carcinogenic.

37. Formula contains high levels of iodine which may affect thyroid function. (Fisher 1989)

38. Genetically engineered soy beans are used to make soy formula.

39. Formula contains glutamate (MSG-type amino acid) which damages the hypothalamus in the brain.

40. Milk used to make formula can come from cows fed BGH (bovine growth hormone) and contains residue of antibiotics given to the cows. Formula is often imported, so the milk comes from cows treated with medications that are allowed in the country they are in, even though those medications may not be allowed in the country where the formula is consumed.

41. Formula constituents can change depending on manufacturing variations, inaccuracy of measuring at home when adding water to concentrated formula, or settling of formula in the can. Sometimes low-income families will over-dilute formula, introduce solids too early, or substitute cow's milk or juice.

42. The composition of breast milk is tailor-made for your baby's ages and growth stages. For example, the mother of a premature baby produces milk higher in protein and fat than milk that is produced by the mother of a full-term baby. And, when baby begins to wean, the protein content of breastmilk increases as the supply decreases, thus keeping the nutritional level high for a longer time. Even within a feeding, the composition of breast milk changes--the hind milk at the end of a feeding has a higher fat content which will leave baby feeling satisfied. If both breasts are used in a feeding, the hind and fore milk will mix in the second breast, giving milk that has more calories and fat.

43. The ratio of vitamins in the system of breastfed babies is different from that of babies fed formula.

44. Breast milk is easily and nearly completely digested, because it has enzymes that help baby digest it. For example, it contains a fat-digesting enzyme, lipase. Up to 50% of iron in mother's milk is absorbed by the baby, compared to only 4% from formula. Baby formula does not contain enzymes.

45. Human milk contains at least 100 ingredients that are not in cow's milk.

46. The work of the jaw and facial muscles when baby sucks at the breast enhance development of the mouth and teeth. Bottle feeding can cause problems with the way the jaws and teeth grow (malocclusion).

47. Activities in which babies use opposite sides of the body (such as right/left movement of arms and legs in crawling), benefit baby's neurological development. When baby changes from breast to breast, it gives baby visual exercise on alternate sides, beginning at birth.

48. Breastfeeding prevents postpartum hemorrhage because it releases oxytocin hormone, contracting the uterus.

49. Breastfeeding protects the mother against breast cancer, and the longer she breastfeeds, the less the risk is. (Studies were done in the UK, China, Japan, New Zealand, and Mexico. Byers et al. 1985; McTiernan and Thomas 1986; Furberg et al 1999, British Medical Journal #307 1993) Women who were breastfed as infants show a decrease of 25% in breast cancer rates compared to women fed formula as infants. This can be restated as follows: Women who were fed formula as infants had a 33.3% increase in breast cancer rates.

50. Breastfeeding protects the mother against ovarian cancer. (Gwinn et al. 1990)

51. Breastfeeding protects the mother against cervical cancer. (Brock et al. 1989)

52. Breastfeeding protects the mother against osteoporosis (Aloia et al. 1985; Koetting and Wardlaw 1988) After breastfeeding, a mother's bone density returns to pre-pregnancy or even higher levels. (Sowers 1995)

53. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of hip fractures after menopause. (Cummings 1993)

54. Breastfeeding converts weight gained during pregnancy into milk; there is no need to diet to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. Milk production uses between 600-800 calories per day. A bottle-feeding mother would have to bicycle uphill for at least an hour or swim at least 30 laps in a pool to use those calories!

55. Prolactin, a hormone produced while breastfeeding, reduces stress--breastfeeding mothers have a less intense response to adrenaline. (Altemus 1995) Prolactin is called the "mothering hormone" and helps a mother bond with her baby. Prolactin is so strong that, in tests, when it was given to roosters bred to fight, they could not be made to do so!

56. Formula is NOT convenient. Even with disposable bottle liners, it takes time to wash bottle holders, nipples, and caps, measuring cups, can openers, and so on. Measuring and mixing formula and water, pouring it into bottles, and cleaning up can take about an hour a day. If you are away from home and need to give baby a bottle, there's the additional problem of finding a way to warm it.

57. Night feedings for a breast-fed baby are easily handled if you bring baby into your bed. Bottle-feeding at night means you need to get out of bed, warm the bottle, and sit up while you feed baby.

Many sources, including: Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning, Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Successful Breastfeeding, New Beginnings, INFACT Canada newsletter, Complete Book of Breastfeeding, Dr. Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding, The Crazy Makers.