Motherhood is a beautiful experience and breastfeeding plays a significant role in it. Be it for the developing immunity of the new-born, the well-being of the mother, or the bond that develops during this traditional and natural process. It is a known fact that mother’s milk is the best source of optimum nutrition for babies (1).
There are instances where breastfeeding is not viable due to the unsuitability or unavailability of mother’s milk. In such cases, it is recommended to speak to your doctor for an alternative rather than opting for cow’s milk.
Nutritional Significance of Breast-Feeding
Evidence has revealed that breast milk provides all the nutrients at adequate levels required for optimum growth and development of a baby. Moreover, breast milk can be delivered at the right temperature and requires no preparation.
Benefits of breastfeeding the baby:
- Improves growth and nutritional status
- Protects against allergies; lowers the risk of overweight/obesity
- Lowers the risk of chronic diseases (diabetes, heart diseases, asthma & some cancers)
- Improves cognitive & motor development
- Benefits the immune system and protect against infectious diseases (respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract infections)
- Lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
One of the key reasons breastfeeding should not be substituted for cow’s milk is the difference in the composition of milk.
Cow’s Milk: Not A Viable Option
Breast milk contains the necessary nutrients that are notably more bioavailable than cow’s milk. Introducing cow’s milk at an early age leads to:
- Iron deficiency anaemia
Cow’s milk has a low amount of iron, can irritate intestinal lining leading to loss of blood through stool.
- Stress on kidneys
Higher levels of protein and minerals can stress a baby’s immature organs.
- Risk of Infections
Cow’s milk may contain various germs that increase the risk of infections due to inappropriate processing and storage.
- Difficult to digest
Cow’s milk has a higher level of protein and higher fats that are difficult to digest.
- Cow’s milk protein allergy
Feeding cow’s milk at an early age can lead to cow’s milk allergy.
These can have an impact on the growth and development of a baby (4).
Breast-feeding Is A Crucial Part Of Bonding
The simple act of holding your baby close to you releases a melange of calming hormones like oxytocin. Physical gestures that come within the activity of breastfeeding, like skin to skin contact, eye-contact, whispering or humming to the baby, cuddling, stroking, and rocking are conducive to the bond between the mother and the baby.
Always remember that mother’s milk i.e. breast milk is the first natural food for your little one and is an ideal source of nutrition.