Almost fifty years ago
Almost fifty years ago, if mothers were to ask what the best way to feed their infants was, they were given the answer that bottle-feeding is the best. The argument being that bottle-feeding made it easier for parents to track if their infants were getting the right amount of nutrients and food intake. However, childcare authorities now encourage mothers to breastfeed their children. People now consider breast milk as the most nutrient-dense food that mothers could give to their infants for the first twelve months of their lives. It not only contains all the essential nutrients and vitamins necessary for growth, but it may also strengthen infants' immunity against various childhood diseases, such as respiratory illness, ear infections, diarrhea, and allergies. Breastfeeding for six months or longer is sought to reduce infections by 65 percent. In comparison to formula-fed infants, breastfeeding for as little as four months has an average in the reduction of infections by 45 percent. Breast milk strengthens infants' immunity against infections by producing a type of complex carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. Humans cannot digest it, but a type of bacterium called B. Longum. bv. infantis can. This bacterium protects the infants' immunity by crowding out other potential harmful bacterias as well as promoting the growth of other beneficial bacterias in the body.
In comparison to bottle-feeding, breastfeeding is much more practical and manageable. It is sterile, warm, and convenient for mothers to dispense. Moreover, recent studies have discovered that infants' stomachs contain less acidity and enzymes than previously thought. Therefore, infants can only digest very few specific types— all of which are types that can be found in breast milk. Moreover, the milk itself provides an alternative form of some of the enzymes that infants need to digest food, which ensures its easier digestibility in comparison to formula milk. Needless to say, breastfeeding also eases the financial burdens on the parents as well. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on formula milk every month, parents can save this money for other purposes by choosing to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding also brings numerous emotional advantages for both mothers and infants. Many mothers report that breastfeeding makes them develop more intimate relationships with their infants, possibly because of the production of endorphins in their brains during the experience. Breastfeeding may also make infants more responsive to their mothers' touch and gaze during the feed, which brings them calmness and peace. This intimate bond created by breastfeeding may also lead to positive outcomes in children's social development later on.
Breastfeeding not only benefits infants' development, but it brings adage to the mothers' health as well. Research has suggested that breastfeeding may reduce women's rates of developing ovarian cancer and breast cancer before menopause. Additionally, the hormones produced during breastfeeding help mothers shrink the size of their uteruses and thus enable their bodies to return to its pre-pregnancy state quickly. These hormones may also prevent ovulation, lowering the chance of shortly becoming pregnant again and therefore help space out the time between each child.
Breastfeeding is undoubtedly not an easy fix for all infant nutrition and health problems. However, it does provide infants with the necessary nutrients and immune protection they need. The intimate mental experience shared between mothers and infants created through breastfeeding is also irreplaceable compared to the rigidly scheduled bottle feeding. Its lack of financial requirements also makes it accessible to mothers of all financial backgrounds. The slogan used by advocates for breastfeeding, "breast is best," is somewhat accurate in many senses.