Breastfeeding – benefits, and alternatives

It is without a doubt that breastfeeding has a lot of great benefits not only for the baby but also for the mother’s health. However, according to UNICEF, in 2021, about two in five babies were breastfed by 5 months of age. Different circumstances may arise for the mother when it comes to breastfeeding.

With the ongoing pandemic, no time is more important than now to start breastfeeding your babies since it is key for the optimal growth of the mother and the baby. Building up the nutritional foundations of the baby, breast milk is known to provide the perfect mix of vitamins, protein, fat, and even antibodies to help protect your baby against short and long-term illnesses/diseases. It also has unique components such as anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory agents, and living leukocytes, all of which contribute to the developing immune system of the child. Studies have shown that breastfeeding is associated with decreased rates of Acute & Chronic pediatric disorders such as Otitis Media (ear infection), diarrheal disease, lower respiratory tract infections, Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), Diabetes Mellitus, Leukemia, obesity, Asthma, and Atopic Dermatitis.  

Apart from these benefits, it also provides conveniences such as:

  • Cost-effective. Breast milk is free. Spending money on formulas can be quite costly, especially when considering inflation rates rising. According to the National Health Service in England, breastfed babies are also exceptionally healthy, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor, thereby minimizing the family’s health care expenses.
  • Physical contact with your baby. Emotional connections are thoroughly built between mother and infant with continuous skin-to-skin contact with their infants through breastfeeding. 

Breastfeeding does not only lead to certain conveniences and improvements in a baby’s bodily structure and life but also benefits the mother’s health. Among the numerous benefits, some are:

  • Faster weight loss after birth due to burning extra calories to maintain the breast milk supply.
  • Decreases the risk of breast, ovarian & endometrial cancer; type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Hypertension.
  • Lessens the chance of the mother being anemic.
  • Brings a more positive mood, as breastfeeding lessens the risk of postpartum depression and produces the naturally soothing hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) that promote stress reduction.

It is still possible for some mothers to not be able to breastfeed due to low breast milk supply, intake of contraindicated medicine, substance abuse, and infectious diseases. Here are the alternatives mothers can lean on when facing such circumstances:

Perform breast pumping –  If direct latching/breastfeeding is contraindicated or not possible, expressing the breast milk, either manually or using an electric pump, may be done. This should be stored in the freezer in a sealed and properly labeled container (with the date and time of extraction). The milk is thawed prior to use and can then be given to the infant via a feeding bottle.

Visiting a Milk Bank – For mothers who do have not enough supply of breastmilk to sustain their infants, especially those with the indicated need for it, milk can be obtained from milk banks provided they have the necessary prescription from the infant’s attending Pediatrician. Milk from these banks is safe as donor mothers undergo rigid screening and the milk collected goes through a pasteurization process.

Using Infant Formulas – Infant formulas are another stable alternative as these have gone through thorough testing and are required to pass certain levels of nutritional value and quality checking. However, the benefit it provides is still not as optimal as the health benefits of breastmilk.

You and your baby’s health will always be the top priority. Should you have any health concerns for you and your baby, do not hesitate to call Medgate to consult with our pediatricians on board.