Why is breast milk the perfect fit for babies until six months?

It took us many years to understand that breast milk is the perfect mix of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals for babies. No other foods are necessary to meet your baby’s nutritional requirements. It is rich in live ingredients and other bioactive compounds (hormones and growth factors) essential for their development during the early stages. Hence, exclusive breastfeeding is a must until your baby is six months old. 

  • Breast milk consists of long-chain fatty acids that are crucial for babies’ brain development. Moreover, it increases the white matter in the brain, thereby strengthening the connection between neural cells.
  • Breastmilk provides your kids with all the immunity boosters they’d need without any additional supplements. Hence, they are less likely to suffer from infections, cold, and flu.

However, it is never wrong to question and prefer other alternatives (under exceptional circumstances) as advised by your pediatrician.

Breast milk vs. cow milk for babies

Some parents doubt why they shouldn’t give their babies cow milk. The reason is that cow milk better suits for baby calves and not your baby. 

  • It may irritate the intestinal walls due to indigestion, leading to blood loss and subsequent iron-deficiency. Moreover, it may interfere with iron absorption.
  • It lacks vitamin C and E.
  • If babies drink it more than the recommended amount, it decreases their appetite, and lose the nutrition they require.
  • It may cause insulin-dependent diabetes in infants.
  • It does not have healthy fats.

You may start feeding your baby cow milk after at least a year unless there are no allergic reactions. However, make sure they have a balanced diet and are still breastfed to compensate for the nutritional requirements.

What is the formula milk for babies?

Formula milk also provides the advantage of hydration, nutrition, and energy your baby needs, similar to breast milk. However, since cow milk is the basis for formula milk, you need to understand that cow milk better suits for baby calves. Cow milk undergoes a lot of processing to make it a better fit for infants.

Breast milk is rich in healthy oligosaccharides and proteins. Including a couple of those in the formula will not give the same essence of breast milk. Moreover, cow’s milk is already rich in proteins and is additionally added with excess amino acids according to the baby’s needs. This attacks the baby’s immature kidneys due to protein overload.

The fundamental reason for preferring breast milk over formula milk for babies is that the latter is always constant and with no immune-boosters. Whereas, break milk adapts to your child’s needs. If he put a toy in his mouth and is prone to infection, your body will secrete more fighting cells that travel to your milk. Moreover, your baby may enjoy the taste of breast milk more as it changes with your diet.

It is always best to exclusively breastfeed your baby until six months. However, a few mothers have no problem combining breastfeeding and formula feeding considering breastfeeding is well established.

If your child has trouble latching on to your breast, you can use bottles exclusively. Also, consult your pediatrician for vitamin D supplements because breast milk cannot act as the sole source. 

How does breastfeeding benefit you and your kid?

The primary reason for breastfeeding is “maternal fulfillment.” It gives you the unique and emotional experience of being a mother. What positively benefits you during this period is the release of oxytocin- “the love hormone.” Oxytocin promotes the feeling of attachment and bonding with your baby. 

Besides, it makes you feel calmer and reduces your chances of depression, anxiety and increases pain threshold. Moreover, it reduces blood loss and associated risks. It also comforts and soothes them when upset. The more you breastfeed, the more is the release.

It also releases prolactin, which gives you a peaceful nursing experience. This experience and feel is the primary reason mothers choose to breastfeed babies. This will be a psychological foundation for many more years to come.

The benefit of lactation

Lactation is the process by which your body secretes breast milk. Since this process requires a lot of energy, you could be burning around 500 calories a day with breastfeeding. Your body uses the extra fat accumulated during pregnancy for this production, thereby reducing obesity risk. The fat accumulated around the visceral organs may also serve as energy precursors, reducing your risk of cardiovascular complications.

However, you may observe the change at least after six months of breastfeeding. Besides, monitoring diet and regular exercise are the most reliable ways of reducing weight.

Other health benefits

  • Reduced risk of type-2 diabetes (since it increases insulin sensitivity), arthritis, bp, and cholesterol. 
  • Breastfeeding cures your uterus faster and brings it back to normal size. Moreover, it reduces ovulation, decreasing the chances of an early postpartum-period.
  • It reduces the risk of cancer (ovarian, breast, and uterus), probably because of ovulation suppression and the ovulating hormones that play a role in cancer.
  • When you wake up in the middle of the night, breastfeeding is the quickest way, giving you an additional 40-45 minutes of sleep. You won’t have the hassle of bottle cleaning, prepping, mixing the formula at the right temperature, and can save more time. Also, the oxytocin makes them sleepy, and other hormones in your milk readjust their circadian rhythm

How does breast milk change over time?

Colostrum for the first few days: Also called liquid gold due to its color. It is effortless to digest and produced in small amounts. Its quality compensates its minimal quantity. It is rich in WBCs and antibodies that help your baby fight infection soon after leaving your womb. 

However, recent studies suggest that the true “gold” in colostrum is the alarmins. These proteins prevent intestinal colonization that could lead to inflammation and obesity. It also promotes optimal bacteria growth and seals the gut lining, prepping it for digestion. 

The proteins required for its synthesis are present in breast milk. The baby’s gut synthesizes alarmins. Hence, premature babies do not produce them in the required quantity.

Traditional milk for a couple of weeks: It is the improved version. As the production increases, your breasts may feel fuller. It is rich in fats and lactose. 

Mature milk: By the time your baby is four weeks old, the quality improves further. It is now richer in healthy fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Rest assured that the antibodies and WBCs are still present. This quality remains consistent for a long time.

Milk after six months: While it’s true that your milk is still consistent in quality, you should start with solid food and increase healthy nutritional sources.

Though people suggest that you should continue breastfeeding only up to this age, some mothers prefer it for two years, and there is nothing wrong. In fact, breastmilk meets your kids’ calorie requirement of 50% between 6-12 months and about 30% between 12-24months. It continues to provide higher quality nutrients than any other complementary foods.

Related: Yogurt benefits: Is yogurt healthier than curd?

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