Mamma's milk is best

A dangerous trend of supplementing breastmilk with formula for babies is gaining ground. This practice can have adverse effects for the mother and baby, warns Joyce Jayaseelan.

Humans are the only mammals threatening nature’s proven method of caring for its newborns. Every year, over one million infants die and millions of others are impaired due to inadequate breastfeeding. Science has only re-discovered what our ancestors already knew: that breastfeeding is nature’s best gift to the newborn. 

Due to changes in lifestyle, an increasing number of parents are using breastmilk alternatives like formulas. The disadvantages of formula are primarily their lack of infection-fighting antibodies that are present in breast milk and the fact that no formula can exactly duplicate breast milk’s ideal composition. This dangerous trend is gaining ground, despite scientific evidence that breast milk is vastly superior to any other nutrition available to the baby. 

Supplementing breastfeeding with formula is highly discouraged, although it may be helpful in case the mother is sick or intends to get back to work soon. It has been noted that infants that weren’t breastfed have an increased incidence of infectious morbidity as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome. Babies who do not receive breastmilk, for at least six months, are at an increased risk of diarrhoea, respiratory infection and malnutrition. 

Inappropriate amount of proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, salt and calcium can lead to allergy, milk intolerance and lower scores in IQ tests.

For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction and metabolic syndrome. Obstetricians must be uniquely positioned to counsel mothers about the health impact of breastfeeding and to ensure that mothers and infants receive appropriate, evidence-based care. 

Given the compelling evidence for differences in health outcomes, breastfeeding should be acknowledged as a biological norm. Therefore, educating all would-be-parents about the practice of breastfeeding and its benefits, is necessary. To be able to breastfeed in the right manner, women need practical help and support from all quarters, especially health care providers. General good health and adequate hydration are necessary measures to be taken by the mother in this regard.  

World Health Organisation says:


n Breast feeding should begin within an hour of birth.n Breast feeding should be “on demand”, as often as the child wants, day and night, 10-12 times in 24 hours.n Bottles or pacifiers should be avoided.n Every baby must be exclusively breast-fed for the first six months.n Solid food may be given, along with breastmilk, after the seventh month.
(The writer is a lactation consultant at Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore)

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