BM is species-spec jfic i.e. quantitatively and qualitatively most appropriate for human baby. Apart from nutritional superiority, Advantages of breast feeding are many for the baby, mother, family and even to the community,
Nutritional superiority in advantages of breast feeding
BM is easily digestible and contains all essential nutrients in the right quantity and quality, as per baby’s requirements. Major nutritional advantages of breast feeding are as follows —
a) Energy from BM is mainly derived from easily digestible carbohydrates like lactose.
b) Protein content in BM, though less than in cow milk, is qualitatively superior due to —
– Better whey-casein ratio: 75% of human milk proteins are easily digestible whey proteins or lactalbumin, unlike casein-rich cow milk, which is difficult to digest due to curd formation.
– Essential amino acids (EAA): BM contains All the EAAs in appropriate concentrations to facilitate proper cognitive development. Cow milk is deficient in cysteine and other EAAs.
– It also includes High protein content in animal milk increases risk of allergic disorders, due to absorption of macromolecules through immature gut mucosa.
– It includes Fat content in EM is quantitatively comparable to cow milk, but with better quality i.e. higher PUPA and EFA content Cow milk is richer in saturated fats, which are difficult to digest and increases risk of hypertension or heart disease in adult life. Human milk also contains lipase enzyme, essential for fat absorption.
– It includes Vitamin contents in EM is adequate (except Vitamin K), while cow milk is deficient in Vitamin C and D, Low Vitamin K content in BM is responsible for higher risk of hemorrhagic disease of newborn, which may be prevented by prophylactic Vitamin K supplement at birth.
– Mineral (ash) content of BM is much lower (1.5 %) than in cow milk (>7.0 %). High ash content in cow milk poses additional solute burden over developing kidney with limited concentration capability.
– Iron content in EM is comparable to cow milk, but BM iron is better absorbed (—50%) than cow milk iron (10%), due to lesser phosphate load.
– Calcium content is lesser in BM, though EM calcium is better absorbed & utilized due to appropriate Ca: P ratio. Consequently, tetany is less common in Breast fed children.
Water: EM contains adequate water (88%) and hence, no additional water is required in exclusively breast-fed babies, with less risk of infections.
B) Anti-infective properties of advantages of breast feeding: EM is essentially sterile, except in presence of systemic or local (breast) matemal infection. Further, presence of various anti-infective substances in BM is responsible for lower incidence of GIT and respiratory infections in Breast fed infants. These factors include —
i) Humoral factors of advantages of breast feeding like Non-specific and specific IgG antibodies & Secretory IgA, for local immunity
ii) Cellular factors like Phagocytic cells like macrophages & Cellular-release factors like lysozymes
iii) High complement activity
iv) Organism-specific protective factors like
- Bifidus Factor, which facilitates the growth of Lactobacillus bifidus in gut and prevents pathogenic colonization,
- Lactoferrin, a protein that binds the iron and inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria like E.coli, which need iron for their metabolism.
- Lower pH of EM prevents bacterial overgrowth.
C) Emotional bonding advantages of breast feeding: Breast feeding creates an emotional bond between baby and mother, necessary for future growth, development, and parent-child adjustment.
D) Advantages of breast feeding to mother include —
- Enhanced oxytocin secretion to facilitate placental expulsion and uterine involution with less risk of post-partum hemorrhage.
- Convenience and less workload, obviating the need for boiling/mixing the top-milk. She also doesn’t have to worry about the milk supply and spoilage.
- Natural contraception: Lactational Annecorinne due to high prolactin levels is common during first 6 months, with —98% protection.
- Lower incidence of breast and ovarian cancers.
- Cosmetic recovery: Breast feeding mothers regain their figure faster, due to more caloric consumption.
E) Advantages to family: Breast feeding is a good economic practice for family as well, due to —
- Negligible cost, except the hidden expenses for additional nutrition to mother.
- Less health-care expenses, due to lesser morbidity.
F) Advantages of breast feeding to the community include —
- Ecological benefits due to less consumption of natural resources for animal-milk production (fodder), boiling (fuel) and washing the utensils (water).
- Lesser morbidity and public health expenses.
- Population control.