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Breast milk vs Formula Milk Benefits

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Breast milk or the Formula

Breast milk is the only natural source of nutrition for your newborn. It is recommended to feed your baby only with breast milk in the initial months of life.However, many medical and practical circumstances may restrict you from doing so.

More so, these days, many formula milks are available in the market that claim to be as good as breast milk. They are supposed to cover all the nutritional needs of your baby and promote optimum growth.

Let’s see how the formula milk fair against the breast milk in terms of nutrition and advantages. As well as understand which milk to consider for your baby according to the situation.

What is in the breast milk?


The breast milk has all the essential nutrients required for the growth of the baby (fat, protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, etc.)

Moreover, it contains components that protect your baby from infections and other health hazards.


Content of the breast milk:

• Proteins: Breast milk has mainly two types of protein, whey (60-80 %) and casein (40%). This proportion helps with the digestive system of the newborn, making it easy to digest.

• Lactoferrin: It inhibits the growth of the iron-dependent bacteria (like the yeast & coliforms)in the gastrointestinal system.

• Antibodies: The milk contains Secretory IgA, which helps in protecting from viruses and bacteria.Few immunoglobulins like IgG and IgM are also present in the breast milk. Including fish in meals helps to increase the amount of immunoglobulins in your milk.

• Protective enzyme: An enzyme called lysozyme present in milk protects against E. Coli and Salmonella. It has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes healthy gastric flora.

• Pre-biotic: Breast milk has a Bifidus factor, which is a type of pre-biotic. It promotes the growth and maintenance of the good bacteria called lactobacillus. Lactobacillus protects against harmful bacteria by creating an acidic environment where the bacteria cannot survive.

• Fat: it has the necessary fats that are essential for the health of your baby. They promote proper development of the brain, eyes, and nervous system and serve as the primary source of energy and calories.Fat in breast milk helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and act as a primary source of calories.

• Vitamins: Many fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K are essential for proper growth. Their composition in the milk depends upon the mother’s diet. According to the American Academy of pediatrics and institute of medicine, 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D is required by the infant till one year of age; hence vitamin D supplementation is essential.

• Carbohydrates: Lactose is the main carbohydrate of breast milk. It amounts to a total of 40% of the calories. It helps in keeping a bacteria-free flora of the digestive system, hence improves the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium and, at the same time, promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach.

• Colostrum: it is the most crucial component present in the initial breast milk. It coats and covers your infant’s stomach lining and prepares it to digest the mature milk.

• Hormones: hormones in the breast milk does many functions. They promote mother and child bonding and regulates appetite.

• Other helpful components: White blood cells,these cells help to fight against infections and strengthen immunity. Beneficial bacteria protect your infant’s gut, and prebiotics such as oligosaccharides support gut health. Nucleotides and hormones that help develop healthy sleep-wake patterns.


Advantage of breast milk over Formula

• Natural: It the best natural source which provides all the essentials nutrients and antibodies requires for the healthy infant.

• Flexible composition according to need: Breast milk is a tailored fluid for your baby, which adapts to your baby’s changing circumstances. For example, if the baby falls sick, then the mother’s body signals to produce more white blood cells and antibodies to fight against the infection.

• Easy to digest: breast milk is easier to digest, and thus it leads to less chances of colicky pain.

• Protection from infections: it protects your child from like the common cold, ear infections, UTI and with fewer cases of asthma and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)

• Prevention from obesity

• IQ development: breast milk is considered to promote better IQin the baby

• Development of facial muscles: Baby develops better facial muscles

• Breastfed babies develop milestones on time, especially speech.

• Better bonding: mother and child develops better bonding. It is due to the release of hormones such as progesterone and the intimate act itself.

• Protection against chronic diseases: Reduces the risk of developing asthma, type 1 & 2 diabetes, leukemia, lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

• Prevention of disease in mothers: It is beneficial for mothers too, as it reduces the risk of breast cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, ovarian malignancy, and osteoporosis.

• It helps in reducing weight since breastfeeding results in a loss of 500 calories per day.


Additional advantages of breast milk

• It is convenient

• Cheap and cost-saving

• Less time for preparation of feed

• No sterilization and washing of utensils are required.

• Easier

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What is in the formula milk?

formula milk

Ingredients of the formula milk vary by brand and the country. But generally, it contains processed skimmed cow’s milk with added emulsifiers and stabilizers,which help in the preparation of the milk with water.


Content of the formula milk:

• Lactose: itis the main ingredient of the formula milk. It is a naturally occurring sugar (carbohydrate) in milk, also called milk sugar. It may contain other sugars like fructose, corn syrup or maltodextrin.

• Plant-based oils: the formula milk contains vegetable oil such as palm, rapeseed, coconut, sunflower or soybean oil.

• Fatty acids: it contains fish oil-derived fatty acids.DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid), synthesized versions of the essential fatty acids found naturally in breast milk.

• Vitamins and minerals: these are derived from animal and plant sources.

• Enzymes and amino acids

• Probiotics (in some formulas)

• Iron


Advantages of formula milk

• Easy preparation: you just need to add some spoons of formula milk to a glass of water and stir to form milk. This makes itan easy and quick source of nutrition for the baby.

• Ease of feeding: you need not to worry about the place and timing of the feed.It allows you to feed your infant anywhere at any given time.

• Better time management: It avoids stress associated with multitasking between work and pumping schedule.

• Easier scheduling: Since Formula does not get digested as quick as the breast milk, scheduling feeds and setting a routine for the baby becomes easier.

• Alternative source of feeding: Your partner can help out with nighttime feedings and share the special bonding experience with the baby.

• Doesn’t depend on maternal nutrition: Mother doesn’t have to worry about having a balanced meal every time. Many edibles are avoided by a breastfeeding mother to provide an easy to digest fed for the infant. One can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail once in a while if you are not breast feeding. Breastfeeding mothers have to avoid it since a small percentage of it passes down to the infants through the breastmilk.

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Formula milk vs. breast milk health benefits


Breast MilkFormula Milk
• Improves the chances of your baby doing well at school with better behavior, eyesight and teeth alignment.

• Reduces the risk of chronic diseases later in life such as obesity, type 1 & 2 diabetes.

• Reduces risk of infection

• Better skin to skin contact during breastfeeding hence helps in a better bonding and relationship between the mother and the child.

• Specially tailored according to the need of the infants. Its composition varies from the time of the day (morning to evening) with a different flavor every time.

• Important role in low birth weight and premature babies where the baby lacks growth. It becomes critical when the baby has poor sucking or latching that restricts effective breastfeeding.

• It allows to feed baby at odd times and places.

• Useful when the mother is not able to feed the baby due to a health condition or if the mother has a nutritional deficiency.

• It doesn’t affect your baby if you drink alcohol or smoke. However, passive smoking can affect your baby and may even increase the chances of SIDS.

Take home message

With so many unique advantages, it is quite clear that the breast milk is superior to formula milk. Its composition and inherent quality to protect the baby from various conditions makes it a clear winner.

However, due to some advantages in the ease of use and practicality, the formula milk has been a popular alternative choice. Generally, doctors and health organizations advise use against these indications. This is done to avoid unnecessary use of formula milk and promote breastfeeding instead.

The formula milk use is usually indicated in situations where the mothers are unable to produce enough milk, or the baby is unable to suck properly.

The WHO advises to exclusively breast feed the baby for the first six months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding for 1 year of age or till required by the baby and for the mother’s well-being.


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