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Human milk for human babies

A mother’s milk is special. The realisation that she can create, within herself, the perfect food for her baby can be an empowering experience for a mother. A mother’s milk contains every vitamin, mineral and other nutritional element that her baby’s body needs, including many that have not been discovered or named yet, and it changes subtly through the meal, day and year to match a baby’s changing requirements.

But, human milk is also more than food. It’s a complex living substance, like blood, with a long list of active germ-fighting and health-promoting ingredients. These help protect babies against all kinds of infections, common and not-so-common.

Even in developed countries, such as Bermuda, the routine feeding of infant formula places babies at a higher risk of many short-term and chronic illnesses, including respiratory infections, diarrhea, ear infections, gastro-intestinal disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), type 1 and type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, asthma, dental problems and obesity. Furthermore, women who do not breastfeed have higher incidences of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes.

Human milk contains antibodies, hormones and growth factors which cannot be manufactured in a laboratory and are not found in any infant formula. A single drop of human milk contains around one million white blood cells which work to destroy harmful bacteria in an infant.

These cells, called macrophages (“big eaters”), gobble up germs. Breastmilk is also power-packed with immunoglobulin A, which coats the lining of a baby’s immature intestines like protective paint, preventing germs and foreign proteins from leaking through and creating allergic sensitivities.

As evidence that human milk is the normal food for human infants, nutrition experts look to human milk to determine how much babies need of a certain nutrient. Yet, no one can manufacture vitamins and minerals the way a mother can. The nutrients present in human milk have a high degree of bioavailability, meaning they are easily absorbed through the intestines into the bloodstream.

To make up for the low bioavailability of added vitamins and minerals in formula, manufacturers must increase the concentration of these nutrients. However, the wasted, unabsorbed nutrients stress a baby’s immature digestive system, kidneys and liver and encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

Mother and baby form a dynamic team in the immunization process. Each mother’s milk contains antibodies to precisely the germs that she and her baby have been exposed to in their own environment. When a baby is exposed to a new germ, the mother produces antibodies to that germ which are then passed along to the baby through her breast milk.

Since some components of human milk enhance the effects of others, the numerous ingredients of human milk work together. Manufactured substitutes are no match for the complex balance and interaction of ingredients found in human milk. Human milk actively contributes to the normal, healthy development of every system in a baby’s body. This is a precious gift that each mother can provide for her baby.

Breastfeeding Benefits from Top to Bottom from www.askdrsears.com

Brain: Higher IQ in breastfed children. Cholesterol and other types of fat in human milk support the growth of nerve tissue.

Eyes: Visual acuity is higher in babies fed human milk.

Ears: Breastfed babies get fewer ear infections.

Mouth: Less need for orthodontics in children breastfed more than a year. Improved muscle development of face from suckling at the breast. Subtle changes in the taste of human milk prepare babies to accept a variety of solid foods.

Throat: Children who are breastfed are less likely to require tonsillectomies.

Respiratory system: Evidence shows that breastfed babies have fewer and less severe upper respiratory infections, less wheezing, less pneumonia and less influenza.

Heart and circulatory system: Evidence suggests that breastfed children may have lower cholesterol as adults. Heart rates are lower in breastfed infants.

Digestive system: Less diarrhea, fewer gastrointestinal infections in babies who are breastfeeding. Six months or more of exclusive breastfeeding reduces risk of food allergies. Also, less risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in adulthood.

Immune system: Breastfed babies respond better to vaccinations. Human milk helps to mature baby’s own immune system. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of childhood cancer.

Endocrine system: Reduced risk of getting diabetes.

Kidneys: With less salt and less protein, human milk is easier on a baby’s kidneys.

Appendix: Children with acute appendicitis are less likely to have been breastfed.

Urinary tract: Fewer infections in breastfed infants.

Joints and muscles: Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is less common in children who were breastfed.

Skin: Less allergic eczema in breastfed infants.

Growth: Breastfed babies are leaner at one year of age and less likely to be obese later in life.

Bowels: Less constipation. Stools of breastfed babies have a less-offensive odor.

Photo by Becky Spencer Tania Kowaski with baby Mackenzie.

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Published November 25, 2011 at 9:46 am (Updated November 25, 2011 at 9:46 am)

Human milk for human babies

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