So, why is breastmilk best? I could keep this post short and sweet and simply say, “Breastmilk is a real food – not created in a lab.” But that would be boring. Human breastmilk is truly amazing, and I am here to tell you why!
Once upon a time, I was on track to become an IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant). But then Oh Lardy happened, and my photography business picked up. Something had to give! I am a Certified Breastfeeding Educator and I am happy to help anyone who has breastfeeding questions. I am huge supporter of breastfeeding as I feel it is the best way to nourish our children. However, I do understand that artificial milk (formula) is a necessary evil. Unfortunately most moms who have a need for another feeding option, simply don't know that options other than artificial milk even exist!
What are the ingredients in breastmilk?
Take a look at this chart (click on the link for the ability to zoom in):
Whoa. That is a LOT of ingredients. The cool part is, it gets added to every year as new ingredients are discovered! So why is the formula ingredient list so short? There are 100s of ingredients that the artificial milk industry simply can't duplicate. For example, antibodies (abundant in human milk) that are responsible for building an infant's immune system and protecting them from illness aren't found in artificial milk.
Breast milk is also constantly evolving to adjust to the infant's needs. Breastmilk is a living food. The breastmilk that the 2-year-old is different than the colostrum that the infant receives during its first days of life. And COLOSTRUM!!! Holy cow is that awesome stuff. Babies are born sterile. They get a bacterial bath when delivered vaginally, which is one of nature's way of colonizing the baby's immune system. Colostrum is loaded with antibodies and good bacteria that are responsible for sealing the baby's gut, protecting the infant from harmful intruders. Colostrum is also a tiny laxative that helps the infant pass it's first poop and prevents jaundice.
Artificial milk is missing these incredibly important ingredients. Without the beneficial bacteria and antibodies, the artificially fed infant's immune system is compromised right from the start. What a bummer!
Artificial milk companies are good at exploiting all of the “added ingredients” that are supposed to make it better. Here's the thing, their added ingredients (think DHA and ARA) just aren't as good as the real thing. Studies show they don't even make a difference.
Now, I recognize the need for alternative feeding methods for babies. Sometimes moms are unable to breastfeed due to health issues or insufficient milk supply. The World Health Organization recommends the following for babies whose mothers can not breastfeed. From most preferred to least preferred: expressed breast milk from the infant's own mother, donated breast milk from a healthy wet nurse or human milk bank, formula. Recognizing the need for another option, some mother's make their own formula – and their babies are thriving! Here's the thing, it is hard to make an informed decision about infant feeding if you simply do not know all of the information.
Breastmilk is a perfect food. It is made by our bodies to nourish the bodies of our babies. It is smart, it knows what babies need and changes to meet their needs. It truly is the BEST food for babies. While artificial milk certainly saves lives of babies who can not thrive off of their mothers when they themselves can't breastfeed, it simply doesn't provide all of the nutritional magic that breastmilk does.