Throughout all countries of the world there is a positive correlation between artificial feeding rates and infant mortality and morbidity. The incidence of most acute illnesses increases as the proportion of breast milk intake decreases.
General Health:Breast milk contains immunological components, such as SIgA, that provide protection for the infant and it also assists with the development of the immune system. It is because artificially fed infants are denied the unique protection of breast milk that they have been shown to have suboptimal health with conditions such as diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections and ear infections being significantly higher in formula fed babies.
Breast milk supports the establishment of a harmless anaerobic bifidus flora in the newborn’s gut which aids digestion and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Artificially fed babies are colonised predominantly by enterococci and enterobacteria with Clostridia, Enterococci, Klebsiella and Escherichia coli commonly found in their digestive systems. Formula feeding is one of the key risk factors for necrotizing enterocolitis, an often fatal condition, and appears to be dose related.
SIDS:Without doubt, breastfeeding provides protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by mitigating some of the factors implicated in the syndrome. Numerous studies have shown that artificially feeding doubles the risk of SIDS.
Chronic Disease:Recent research suggests that the risk of chronic diseases such as type I diabetes, coeliac disease, some childhood cancers and inflammatory bowel diseases is increased by the early introduction of artificial milk. It appears that formula feeding also increases the risk of developing type II diabetes in later life. In order to reduce the risk of coeliac disease, which can more than double in artificially fed infants, it is recommended that breastfeeding continues exclusively for six months and also during the months that gluten is introduced to the diet.
Brain and CNS:The brain of a newborn doubles its size during the first year. Unlike bovine milk, human milk is high in lactose which is needed for optimal brain development and the essential fatty acids in breast milk are proactive in the myelination process of the central nervous system. This is thought to give protection against multiple sclerosis. It has long been acknowledged that artificial feeding contributes to reduced total IQ, reduced verbal IQ and reduced performance IQ.
Obesity:Obesity is greatly influenced by the chosen feeding method and is associated with the early introduction of artificial milk, (even while breastfeeding,) and the introduction of solids before six months. Two hormones found in breastmilk, (leptin and insulin,) assist with the maintenance of normal weight.
Allergens:Cow’s milk is the most common allergen affecting infants. It is the proteins in bovine milk that are the allergen and they affect the lung function of artificially fed babies leading to an increased incidence of asthma and wheezing. Allergic rhinitis and eczema are also more common in artificially fed infants.
Facial development:Bottle feeding uses completely different facial muscles to breastfeeding and has been found to be associated with a narrowing of the palate with poor teeth spacing; reduced jaw development; altered occlusion; open bite; and posterior cross-bite. The number of dental caries is significantly lower in infants who were exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life.
Contamination:Artificial milk preparations have been known to become contaminated during the manufacturing process thus exposing the infant to enteropathogens, (such as Enterobacter sakazakii,) and foreign substances. Contamination may also occur during preparation, particularly in countries or situations where potable water is not readily available.
Maternal benefits:There are many significant maternal benefits associated with exclusive breastfeeding. These commence immediately after the birth with decreased postpartum blood loss, rapid involution of the uterus and thus a reduced risk of infection. Amenorrhea, which usually lasts for about six months, results in a reduced demand for iron and decreased total blood loss making anaemia more prevalent in women who artificially feed.
Exclusive breastfeeding provides a considerable cost saving during the first six months as personal hygiene products, contraceptives and artificial formula are not generally required. Fertility usually returns within six weeks when lactation is supressed.
Weight loss is significantly greater in women who exclusively breastfeed and occurs gradually with about twelve kilograms being shed by six months postpartum.
Insulin required by type 1 diabetics decreases during the period of breastfeeding. The risk of type 2 diabetes is more common in women who did not breastfeed. The longer breastfeeding continues for each pregnancy the greater the benefits. Research conducted by Stuebe (2005) showed that “Women who did not breastfeed one child for a total of one year had a 78% increase in age-adjusted risk for diabetes.” Women with gestational diabetes double their risk of developing postpartum diabetes if they suppress and artificially feed.
Lactation is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Studies of data from thirty countries found that “the longer women breast feed the more they are protected against breast cancer.” In addition, the suspension of ovulation while breastfeeding is thought to positively impact on the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.