The advantages of breastfeeding over bottle feeding are numerous for both mother and baby. This is not to say that bottle feeding doesn't have its perks, but there is a reason why most pediatricians advocate breastfeeding over bottled formula in this day and age.
The Health Advantages of Breastfeeding
The primary advantage of breastfeeding is that breast milk is theoretically the perfect food for babies. Breast milk contains a horde of bioavailable nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Most importantly, these nutrients come in just the right ratios to create a balanced food for human babies. For example, cow's milk would be a very poor food choice for newborn humans being that cow's milk contains a radically high amount of protein. Moreover the protein molecule in cow's milk, casein, is far too large a molecule to be easily digested by a human infant. This is why baby formulas based on cow milk's contain lower amounts of casein than you would find in the whole cow's milk. However, this casein molecule in formulas can still cause in infants digestive disturbances such as constipation, excessive gas, and diarrhea.
Breast milk also contains immunological aids and antibodies that strengthen an infant's immune system during the first year of his life. Though breast milk only provides this immune support for a temporary amount of time, babies are particularly weak throughout the newborn period, and these immunological factors can be of great help during cold and flu season. A mother will pass on her own flu antibodies to her baby while nursing, which is why it is actually recommended that mothers still nurse their infants when either mother or baby is sick with a cold or flu.
Breastfeeding is also said to reduce the chances of a child developing food allergies, though some mothers will experience the opposite case. Unfortunately, due to the inadequacy of many mothers' diets and also the fact that many commercial foods have been processed with chemicals and additives, more and more infants are developing allergies to their own mother's breast milk. Moms will have to eliminate certain foods from their diet while nursing in order to reduce the amount of digestive discomfort their baby exhibits. The most common offender is dairy, though an infant can develop an allergy to almost any food. This is why breastfeeding mothers should think back to what was eaten on a day that their nursing infant develops an uncomfortable change in bowel habits.
Thus, in order to experience the maximum amount of benefits while breastfeeding, it is important for a nursing mother to keep her diet as pristine as possible. A diet containing as many whole unprocessed organically produced foods is always recommended over a diet of commercially prepared processed foods.
More information regarding healthy breastfeeding can be found over at the official La Leche League website.
The Emotional Perks
Another benefit of breastfeeding your baby is that it creates a special bond between a mother and her child. This is not to say that bottle-fed babies are loved less than babies who nurse, but in general, the act of breastfeeding releases certain hormones that enhance feelings of love for your child. Many mothers find it comforting to know that they can provide everything their infant needs during feeding time which is why exclusive breastfeeding helps to fortify maternal confidence. This, of course, can become a disadvantage during the weaning process, but as long as a mother breastfeeds she will fulfill a role in her baby's life that no other person can.
The Economic Advantage
The economic advantages of breastfeeding play a large role in the decision process most parents undergo when choosing whether to bottle or breastfeed. Formula is expensive and will cost thousands of dollars, especially if parents plan on rearing more than one child in the future. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is relatively cheap. Although a nursing mother may need to eat more than a bottle-feeding mom, the cost benefits of breastfeeding are outstanding.
Breastfeeding can also save a mother time when it comes to the issue of washing bottles in the middle of the night, or packing up formula and bottles for trips out. A nursing mother will merely need the aid of a trusted nursing bra, and wherever she and baby go, the milk supply is readily available!
The Weight Loss Controversy
Breastfeeding is often touted as a weight loss aid for postpartum mothers. It is said to burn on average about five hundred calories a day. Some mothers will shed their pregnancy pounds very quickly while breastfeeding; however, others will not. Breastfeeding can increase a mother's appetite due to the calorie burn, and, unfortunately, many mothers will not reach for healthy food choices. Other moms will notice that they simply cannot shed that final five excess pounds until they wean their infant.
Every mother's physiology is unique, and so there is still controversy as to whether or not breastfeeding is truly effective for weight loss. For this reason it is important that a mother nurse her infant not so much for the weight loss promise, but more for the emotional and physiological health of her child.