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breastfeeding your baby: why it's so important

Formula is not a safe and adequate alternative to mother's milk!

We are all told that "breast is best". In our doctor's offices, we see posters listing the many benefits of breast feeding. Yet, we are also the targets of marketing by formula companies that proclaim their products to be 'closest to breast milk' and for all the repetition of the  'breast is best' mantra, no one ever tells us that formula is inadequate and carries many health risks. The result is that many of us perceive formula to be a viable, adequate alternative and think of breastfeeding and its many benefits as an 'extra bonus' that isn't really necessary.

Have we ever been misled!

Take all those benefits listed on the breast feeding poster. We are told that breast feeding lowers the risk of infections, diabetes, and certain cancers among other things. But flip that around, and what it really means is that not breastfeeding- in other words, formula feeding- increases the risk of all these problems. You may think that all the medical conditions listed are rare anyway- why worry about them?  While the risk of a formula-fed baby being diagnosed with any one of these conditions seems small, put all those statistics together and you get a lot of unhealthy children. Why take the risk? If you can breastfeed, you are giving your baby more than a little 'extra', you are giving him or her the healthy start nature intended him or her to have.

What if you want to supplement?

Many women unfortunately have to return to work within weeks of giving birth. If this is your situation, you have only three alternatives: pump milk in advance, leave work on breaks or have your baby brought to you at work so you can nurse, or supplement with formula. Since the first two are not possible for everyone, many moms find themselves having to supplement. If this is your case, don't feel bad about it, you can only do your best.

Some things to consider:

- introducing supplementation too soon can adversely affect your milk supply
- introducing bottles too early can cause nipple confusion, which can lead to the baby prefering the bottle because it is easier to drink from.
- even a single exposure to formula in the newborn period can raise the risk of developing a cow's milk allergy or sensitivity.
- many formulas contain genetically modified ingredients with possible health risks. more
- soy formulas are particularly risky and are associated with numerous health problems.
- low levels of melamine have been detected in 90% of infant formulas used in North America. more
- DHA-ARA enriched formulas are associated with improved brain and eye development but also with side-effects in some babies, including diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration and occasionally even seizures.  more

If you find yourself with no alternative but formula supplementation, this does not mean you have to wean your baby completely. Even partial breastfeeding carries many benefits including boosting the immune system and lowering the risk of infections including thoses from HiB and s. pneumoniae (see article).  It also means that if your baby gets a gastrointestinal infection, you will still be able to provide it with breast milk during that time, which is the best method of preventing dehydration. And of course, nothing comforts your baby like nursing at your breast.

For information and breastfeeding support, please see the links below.

La Leche League Websites:


An article on SIDS and breastfeeding:


Disclaimer: the contents of this website are for information purposes only and are ot to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor about any health concerns you may have for yourself or your children.
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