Breastfeeding Protects Babies
Early breast milk is liquid gold.
Known as liquid gold, colostrum (coh-LOSS-trum) is the thick yellow first breast milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby. Although your baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her tiny stomach and hold.
Your breast milk changes as your baby grows.
Colostrum changes into what is called mature milk. By the third to fifth day after birth, this mature breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to help you baby continue to grow. It is a thinner type of milk than colostrum, but it provides all of the nutrients and antibodies your baby needs.
Breast milk is easier to digest.
For most babies – especially premature babies – breast milk is easier to digest than formula. The proteins in formula are made from cow’s milk, and it takes time for babies’ stomachs to adjust to digesting them.
Breast milk fights disease.
The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness. This protection is unique; formula cannot match the chemical makeup of human breast milk. In fact, among formula-fed babies, ear infections and diarrhea are more common. Formula-fed babies also have higher risks of:
• Necrotizing (nek-roh-TEYE-zing) enterocolitis (en-TUR-oh-coh-lyt-iss), a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants.
• Lower respiratory infections
• Atopic dermatitis, a type of skin rash
• Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
• Childhood leukemia
Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Formula-feeding can raise health risks in babies, but there are rare cases in which formula may be a necessary alternative. Very rarely, babies are born unable to tolerate milk of any kind. These babies must have soy formula. Formula may also be needed if the mother has certain health conditions and she does not have access to donor breast milk.