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breastfeeding nutrition

Breastfeeding is feeding a baby with human milk. Experts agree that the best nourishment for a full-term baby is human milk. Breast milk or formula is the only nourishment a baby needs for the first 4 to 6 months of life.

What is the information for this topic? 
There are many benefits to breastfeeding. It helps the physical, emotional, and practical needs of both baby and mother. Some benefits include:
  • The baby can eat on demand. When the baby is hungry, the milk is ready. Measuring, mixing, or warming bottles are not needed. There are no worries about keeping the bottles sterile.
  • Breast milk is easy for babies to digest, so there is less spitting up.
  • Breast milk is rich in antibodies. They help protect the baby from intestinal, ear, urinary, and lower respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the chances that the baby will develop food allergies if breastfeeding continues for at least 6 months.
  • In families with food allergies, breastfeeding lowers the risk of the baby developing asthma, some skin conditions, and food allergies.
  • The quality and quantity of fat in breast milk may be more nutritious than fat in formula.
  • Breastfeeding is less expensive than formula.
Successful breastfeeding requires some commitment. The mother must learn the techniques. She must eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids. She needs the support of family and friends. A certified lactation counselor can also be helpful in the beginning.

Sometimes breastfeeding is not the best choice for either the mother or the baby. Infant formulas imitate breast milk nutritionally. Most formula has iron added to it. Formulas are a healthful alternative for breast milk. Formula does not contain factors that protect against certain common illnesses and allergies.

Formula feeding would be a good choice some situations such as:
  • The mother or baby has a chronic illness or condition. An example is a mother with hepatitis B.
  • The mother may use prescription medications or other drugs. These may be passed through the milk and harm the baby.
  • The mother is returning to work and finds breastfeeding too difficult.
  • The mother is uncomfortable with the process.
For more information on this topic, please see breastfeeding mothers

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 7/1/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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