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NUTRITION CORNER: Breast milk, most complete form of nutrition for infants

According to Healthy People 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development.

Breast milk is a unique nutritional source that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula. Although pollutants can accumulate in breast milk, it remains superior to infant formula from the perspective of the overall health of both mother and child.

Infants are fragile and susceptible to disease, partly because their bodies are not fully developed. They must be treated with special care and given adequate nourishment. Infant formulas are able to mimic a few of the nutritional components of breast milk, but formula cannot hope to duplicate the vast and constantly changing array of essential nutrients in human milk. Nevertheless, breastfeeding is often devalued, both in the United States and abroad, and in many parts of the world it must compete with relentless advertising by infant-formula companies.

Studies have demonstrated a number of important health benefits to breastfeeding. Among them:

Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children.

Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15.

Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life, are able to lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and have a lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding also has economic advantages: it’s cheaper than buying formula and helps avoid medical bills later because it helps equip the baby to fight off disease and infection. New parents are well advised to learn all they can about the pros and cons of breast milk and formula. See below for more information on the benefits of breastfeeding.#