Back in the 1960s, it was fairly common for doctors to tell moms to use baby formula instead of breast milk. Their thinking was that formula was scientifically designed for infants. It was proven to provide all the calories and nutrients a baby needed.
Fast-forward to today. We know that most infant formulas do, in fact, meet babies’ nutritional needs and are safe to use. But we also know a lot more about breast milk than we used to.
As it turns out, breast milk is also perfect for an infant…and even contains some unique ingredients from mom.
Here’s a look at 4 magical nutrients you’re giving your baby when you give her breast milk.
- Colostrum: This is a super immune-system booster. It comes into your breast just before you start producing breast milk.
Colostrum contains antibodies – germ-fighters that help your baby build his immune system. And in those first weeks, he needs all the help he can get to keep the bugs away.
Colostrum is high in protein and carbohydrates. But it’s low in fat, which newborn babies can’t digest very well. Colostrum also acts like a laxative: It helps the baby pass meconium – the sticky, tar-like stool that builds up in her intestines during pregnancy.
- Oligosaccharides. These are special types of sugar, and human mothers produce more than 200 kinds of them. What do they do? They help your baby digest protein and carbohydrates more effectively.
With your oligosaccharides, your baby can turn those building blocks of food into better, stronger organs and tissues. In short, he might grow better.
Scientists think this might be one reason why the brains of human babies grow to be so large, compared to the brains of other mammals.
- Secretory IgA and other immunoglobulins. These special proteins help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria, including e coli. This might be why some studies show that babies who get breast milk tend to get fewer colds, or less severe colds, than babies who get formula.
- Nucleotides. These are chemicals that make babies sleepy. Research shows that at dusk, your breast milk contains more nucleotides than it does at other times of the day. How about that?
Scientists have known about the unique ingredients in breast milk for many years now. While there’s nothing wrong with feeding a baby formula, you might want to think about the benefits of feeding her breast milk as she grows. It’s a way to share some of the best pieces of yourself with her.