Feeding your Baby May 09 2022
Author: Allison Cress
UGA Family & Consumer Science Intern
Human Development Major
I have always been in awe of breastfeeding. I think it is amazing how the human body can support another human’s needs exclusively and create an intimate bond that is beneficial to both mom and baby. I’ll admit I am nerdy, but science is beautiful and so cool. And to think, we were made for this and our bodies just know exactly what to do!! It's so fascinating!
There are many reasons women may choose to bottle-feed. Formula can be a great source of nutrients as well. I want to recognize that from what I have read, the same feelings of warmth and physical closeness that are felt in breastfeeding can also be achieved by holding an infant while bottle feeding. Dads and guardians other than mom, who want that same irreplaceable close bonding with your precious baby, here is a special shout-out to you!
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
If you are able to breastfeed your baby for any amount of time that is awesome! There are so many benefits, both short-term and long-term that are associated with breastfeeding.
The breast milk that is produced within the first 2-3 days after birth is called colostrum. It is a thick and sometimes yellow fluid. Its composition is a little different from mature breastmilk. Colostrum has more protein, which is important for building muscle mass, and fewer carbohydrates (sugars) and fats than mature milk. Colostrum has the highest concentration of the specific type of white blood cells from the mother that provide the baby with immune protection. Colostrum is also saturated in nutrients such as sodium, potassium, vitamin E, carotenoids, and chloride.
One of the most unique benefits of breastfeeding for infants in my opinion is that it provides protection against infection. Breastfeeding is known to provide considerable benefits to the immune system as well as to promote a healthier life trajectory. Multiple findings support that when compared to bottle-fed infants, breastfed infants are significantly less likely to develop health conditions such as obesity, asthma, diabetes, and childhood cancers. Breastmilk contains numerous components that provide the infant’s body with protection against both viral and bacterial pathogens. These are harmful germs that can cause illnesses such as colds and stomach bugs. Some of the main components of breastmilk are cells such as B cells and T cells that work as part of our immune system to help our bodies fight off illnesses. Human breast milk also contains many specific cell types called macrophages and neutrophils. These cells work to kill bacteria and produce complement proteins that can help our body to fight off infection. The white blood cells (which are the cells that make up our immune system) in the breastmilk even work to protect the baby’s stomach from illnesses. The two main antibodies (molecules that can identify harmful molecules such as bacteria) that are in human breastmilk are called slgA and slgM. These antibodies are known to protect against several illnesses and viruses. Specifically, some of them are enteroviruses, retrovirus, rotavirus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and rubella. There are also proteins in human milk that bind iron (which is a mineral that is essential for our red blood cells) and B12 (which is an important nutrient for many of our body’s functions). This binding prevents harmful germs (pathogens) from growing in the infant’s gastrointestinal tract (the tract that food travels through as it makes its way through our body. Human breastmilk also contains growth factors, which is a vitamin or hormone that influences growth, that enhance the maturation of an infant’s gastrointestinal tract (organs that are involved in food digestion), and protects the infant from harmful germs that could cause illness. The presence of over 130 oligosaccharides, which are complex molecules of sugar found in human breastmilk can also be attributed to the significant immune protection provided by breastmilk. Oligosaccharides work to prevent pathogens (harmful germs/bacteria) from binding to their target cell, which stops an infection in its tracts.
One of breastmilk’s greatest benefits to an infant is its positive impact on infants’ cognitive ability and neural development. Breastmilk as well as the duration of breastfeeding is associated with cognitive benefits which are assessed by intelligence quotient (IQ). Even when adjustments have been made for the differences within family environments, there are still significant increases in cognitive ability that are associated with breastfeeding. According to Brown (2020), “a recent randomized study comparing breastfed infants to those fed cows’ milk and soy milk-based HMS found all groups scored within normal range, but breastfed infants scored slightly higher” (p. 163). It is noted in multiple sources of evidence that the composition of breastmilk, can be attributed to its positive influence on cognitive ability. Colen and Ramey (2014) explain that breastmilk contains molecules called polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is a fancy name that refers to the structure of the fat. These fatty acids are believed to play an essential role in eye and brain development and can positively influence cognitive functioning.
- Acute and Chronic illness
Overall, research has found that there is a clear relationship between breastfeeding and reduced rates of illness in infants. It has been found that within infants who are breastfed, there are lower rates of both ear infections and hospitalization for lower respiratory infections. Additionally, findings support that breastfeeding to any extent reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition to the lower rate of acute(short term) illnesses in breastfed children, breastfeeding also seems to protect against chronic (long term) childhood diseases including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and leukemia. The risk of asthma and eczema is also reduced among infants with a family history who are breastfed for 3–4 months.
Brown, J. E., (2020). Nutrition through the Life Cycle (7th ed.). Cengage. (ISBN 978-1-337-91933-3)
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mothers
Women can experience an array of benefits as a result of breastfeeding. Benefits can be felt in mood (hormonal), in the body (physical), and felt within emotions(psychosocial). One health benefit of breastfeeding is that it immediately raises levels of a hormone called oxytocin (aka the love hormone). Oxytocin is a hormone that can decrease levels of maternal postpartum blood loss and help the uterus (aka the womb, which is where the baby grows and develops) to return to the size that it was prior to pregnancy. Breastfeeding can also help women lose weight, which can help women speed up the process of returning to pre-pregnancy weight. Postpartum weight management can be challenging for new mothers as a study in 2015 found that almost one-third of women who were considered normal body weight prior to pregnancy were either overweight or obese at one year after having their baby. Another health benefit to breastfeeding is that it can enhance self-confidence levels within mothers. One of the greatest health benefits of breastfeeding is that it facilitates intimate bonding between mom and baby. A long-term benefit of breastfeeding for mothers is that “women who breastfeed at a younger age and for longer duration may have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer.” Breastfeeding is also known to somewhat delay fertility, which some may consider being helpful. However, breastfeeding is not recommended to be relied on as a form of birth control.
Brown, J. E., (2020). Nutrition through the Life Cycle (7th ed.). Cengage. (ISBN 978-1-
Benefits of Formula Feeding
Formula feeding is also a great choice for making sure your baby gets all of the nutrients they need! Formula is known to be the best possible alternative to breast milk. It is important to not attempt to make your own formula or to feed an infant cow’s milk or any other kind of milk.
Some infants may have dietary restrictions that make certain formulas the best feeding option for them. There are numerous different kinds of formulas. Finding one that your baby likes can make for a happy growing baby!
One big advantage to formula feeding is that it can make scheduling so much easier! Babies don’t digest formula as quickly as breast milk. This means babies who are fed formula don’t need to eat as often, especially in the first few months.
Formula feeding is both convenient and flexible! Babies who are fed formula can be fed by anyone at any time! This can be a great time for other guardians to get in that special bonding time. Formula feeding is flexible in that you don’t have to set aside time to pump in your schedule. If you are working, formula can be left with a caretaker.
Another benefit to formula feeding is that Mom, you don’t have to fret over what you eat or drink! If you’d like to have a glass of wine or a cocktail, go right ahead! Alcohol is removed from the diet of women who breastfeed because they pass on tiny amounts of it to their babies. While breastfeeding, Mom can also eat what her heart desires (remember everything in moderation)! Moms that are breastfeeding may have to avoid certain foods that their baby’s tummy can’t tolerate.
Shaw, G. (2021, June 17). Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding.
The reasons for Bottle Feeding are numerous here are a few info graphics to help summarize the decision to bottle feed whether either breastmilk or infant formula.
Bower, K. (2022). Chapter 5: Physical Growth, Health, and Nutrition. [PowerPoint
Many women may choose to feed with a combination of both breastmilk and formula! This is a great option as well. There are a few reasons that the doctor could recommend that you feed with a combination or add powdered or liquid fortifiers to pump breast milk. These reasons could be:
- Your baby was born with a very low birth weight or premature and needs extra nutrients and calories.
- Your baby has low blood sugar, serious jaundice, or is dehydrated
- Your baby needs more milk than what your body is producing
- Your baby has trouble latching on to breastfeed
It can be a good idea to pump while your baby is getting supplemental feedings so you can start nursing when your baby is ready. In some cases, infants can eventually be switched to exclusively breast milk if mom and baby wish.
However one chooses to feed their baby, the most important thing is that your baby is loved, cared for, and has a full tummy! While each family situation and infant needs are different, there is no cookie-cutter image/set of rules of what is “best.” There are lots of factors to consider when deciding on a feeding method that is best for each family and baby! At the end of the day, you must throw all stigmas out the window and do what is best for your baby, you, and your family!
Shaw, G. (2021, June 17). Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding.
Making a Plan for Feeding your Baby1. Assess your circumstances - work/time/support/nutritional and health needs of you and your baby. The first step to deciding what method of feeding will be best for your family is considering what is feasible with your circumstances?
- Do you have a strong preference for feeding choice?
- Are you and your baby both without limitations, meaning you are physically, mentally, and emotionally able to feed with any method?
- What is your schedule like?
- Are you home to breastfeed?
- Have a work environment to feed in?
- Are you able to pump?
- Do you have a partner that has feeding preferences?
- If you have a partner, what is their schedule like?
- Do they want to be involved in feeding?
- If so, could you pump for them to bottle feed or use formula?
- Does the baby’s tummy like breastmilk?
- Is there a formula that meets the baby’s needs better?
- Can the baby latch on to breastfeed?
- Medically, is your baby able to breastfeed?
- We should remember our babies are their own person independent from us. This can mean sometimes our bodies’ needs and wants may not always match theirs. Is our body producing a volume of milk that matches their intake need?
- If not, we can supplement or use formula completely.
- Is the diet that is recommended for breastfeeding feasible and healthy for mom?
- Does mom need to take any medications or treatments that could interfere with the composition of the breastmilk?
If Breastfeeding is Your Goal - Making Your Nursing Station Comfortable
While I can not speak from my own experience, I can imagine that a comfy nursing station can be a LIFE CHANGER and simply just make all of the difference in the world.
Things you may want to consider for your nursing station:
- comfy chair
- nursing pillow
- water bottles
- easy to eat snacks
- nursing pads
- burp cloths
- charging cord or station for phone
- clock / timing device
- note pad for nursing log
- extra diapers and wipes
- night light