Breasts are an astounding and fascinating body part, not because of how they might look like, but because of what they produce and the nursing process they are involved in! After studying the marvelous properties of breast milk, one cannot but be awed at this substance. Don't be afraid of being fascinated by breasts, as long as it is fascination towards the wonderful baby-nurturing process they take part in!
Even though many people have the mistaken idea that artificial milk (a.k.a. infant formula) is nearly identical to human milk and that it is "almost as good as breast milk", that is not true at all. Compared to infant formula, breast milk is so much better that there is no comparison! God knew what He was doing when He ordained our bodies to produce this amazing substance that makes babies thrive.
Formula-fed babies are sicker, sick more often, and are more likely to die in infancy or childhood. Compared to exclusive/extended breastfed babies, formula-fed babies have a doubled overall infant death risk, and 4-fold risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). According a study that analyzed hospitalization patterns for a homogeneous, middle-class, white American population, bottle-fed infants were 14 times more likely to be hospitalized than breast-fed infants. A careful study of statistics shows that 9,000 lives could be saved yearly in the USA by exclusive breastfeeding!
In reality we should think breast milk as THE NORM and understand that infant formula is an inferior, artificial baby feed. Formula is static, is often not tolerated well, and does not contain live white cells and antibodies to fight diseases like breast milk does. Breast milk is species-specific for humans and changes according to the infant's needs.
For example, if the baby is born pre-term, breasts produce milk that has a different composition, especially suited for a premature infant. In fact, for premature babies, breast milk can make the difference in life and death. Also, the newborn's first milk, colostrum, is in many ways different from the mature milk. It contains lots of antibodies, and acts as a laxative to purge the newborn's bowels from waste accumulated during the time in utero.
Additionally, research published in 2010 has found that breast milk for boys is DIFFERENT from breast milk for girls. The milk produced for boys has a higher fat and protein content than the milk for girls. Man simply CANNOT duplicate this wonder substance!
Protein in breast milk is mostly whey, which is easier to digest than casein (main protein in cow's milk). Protein of breast milk has high amounts of amino acid taurine, which has an important role in the development of the brain and the eyes.
Fats in breast milk are practically self-digesting, since breast milk also contains the enzyme lipase, which breaks down the fat.Fat is the main source of calories for babies - and babies need LOTS of calories to grow well! Also, fat in human milk has large amounts of certain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain development (provided the mother eats those good omega-3 fats herself).
Vitamins and minerals in human milk are bioavailable-meaning they get absorbed well. Breast milk contains substances that enhance the absorption of minerals and vitamins.
DNA. Breast milk has been shown to affect an infant's gene expression. Breast milk and formula have different effects on at least 146 genes. Most of the genes enhanced by breast milk promote quick development of the intestine and immune system. For example, some of the genes positively affected by breast milk protect against "leaky gut".
Immune boosters. In each feeding mother delivers MILLIONS of LIVING white blood cells to her baby to help baby fight off all kinds of diseases. You will not find these living cells in formula! Also, when mother is exposed to a germ, she makes antibodies to that germ and gives these antibodies to her infant via her milk. Breast milk also contains factors that prevent microbes from attaching, and a long list of other antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic factors.
Hormones and enzymes. Breast milk has lots of digestive enzymes, and also many hormones. These all contribute to the baby's well being. Every year scientists find more valuable substances in breast milk. Science is only beginning to understand what all there is in human milk that helps baby's growth and development!
Breast milk is even able to kill the HIV virus! An unknown component of breast milk appears to kill HIV particles and virus-infected cells, as well as blocking HIV transmission in mice with a human immune system.
Breastfeeding prevents obesity. Formula-fed babies are more likely to be obese during adolescence. Longer periods of breastfeeding greatly reduce the risk of being overweight in adulthood.
However, there is one caveat. A study has found that nursing moms who eat lots of trans fats significantly increase the likelihood that their infants will have high levels of body fat, AND also moms themselves are much more likely to gain excessive body fat. You don't want to go that route! Instead of trans fats, try to increase the amount of omega-3 fats in your diet — that can increase the child's intelligence (see below)!
Healthy teeth. Formula-fed babies have worse jaw alignment and are more likely to need orthodontic work as they get older. This is probably because the sucking action during breastfeeding improves the development of facial muscles and the shape of the palate.
Healthy eyes and ears. Bottle fed babies have worse vision, and get more ear infections than breast-fed infants.
General health. Bottle-fed infants and children have more and more severe upper respiratory infections, wheezing, pneumonia and influenza. They have more diarrhea, more gastrointestinal infections and constipation.
Health later in life. Formula-fed babies have a raised risk of heart disease, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, asthma and allergy. Breastfeeding may also play a role in preventing digestive diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, as well as childhood cancers. If you give your infant the unique food designed for it by God, his or her body will function in a healthier way in all aspects.
Studies on breastfeeding and intelligence generally show that breastfeeding has a positive effect on the child's IQ.
For example, in a study of more than 3,000 young men and women from Copenhagen, Denmark, it was found that infants breastfed for nine months grew up to be significantly more intelligent than infants breastfed for one month or less. This study took into account 13 similar factors related to the mother's health, wealth and behavior when analyzing the difference between the scores of more-breastfed and less-breastfed young adults. The significant differences held up after they were factored in.
Another study published in 2007 found a VERY interesting relationship between breastfeeding and intelligence: it showed that whether breastfeeding affects a child's intelligence depends on a certain gene. In 90% of the children, the gene is such a way that breastfeeding DOES affect the child's intelligence, probably by affecting the fatty acid metabolism, or the way the body processes fatty acids. In the remaining 10%, breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding has no effect on intelligence.
This important finding now sheds some light on the previous studies that have had mixed results: there is another confounding factor there, in the children's genetic material. But it further confirms the intellectual advantage breastfeeding can give for 90% of the children. (And of course even the 10% are helped by breast milk in other ways.)
In one 2007 study from the University of Bristol, researchers found that breastfed children are more likely to climb the social ladder than those who are bottle-fed. The researchers said one possible reason for the findings could be that breastfeeding improves health, stature, and IQ.
Breast milk contains several substances that help the baby's brain and can increase the child's IQ over his bottle-fed peers.
You might say that you know someone who was breast fed and ended up less smart than someone else who was bottle-fed. Certainly that is true in individual cases, because there are many factors that affect individual's intelligence − not just breastfeeding. Genetic makeup, how the child is raised, and the nutrition after infancy play a big role too. The duration of breastfeeding matters also; nursing for a few months might not make such a difference as nursing till the child self-weans. So breastfeeding alone won't guarantee that your child will be some kind of Einstein, but it does have its effect.
There also exist studies that have not found any link between breastfeeding and IQ, and often such studies can make big headlines in the media when they first come out. However, many such studies have severe flaws in their design: for example, some studies have defined breastfeeding as "ever breastfed" − if the child gets one sip of breast milk and the rest is formula, then he belongs to the "breastfeeding" group. Such a definition automatically leads to flawed results.
Another factor that may play a role is that the amount of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in breast milk varies according to the mother's diet. We would expect that studies done on mothers who do not eat much fish or take fish oil (which is a large portion of the US population) would not reveal a large difference in IQ as compared to bottle-fed babies. But more research comes out every year, and the picture will get clearer as time goes on.
There is even more to the story... Researchers are continually finding new, amazing compounds in breast milk. We just cannot report all of it on this page, or it would just get too long! But just one example, a protein titled HAMLET in breast milk may help reverse antibiotic resistance and offer a new path against superbugs that cause pneumonia and staph infections.