The Importance of Breastfeeding: Why Formula Milk Falls Short

breast feeding


Breastfeeding is a vital aspect of infant nutrition, providing numerous health benefits for both babies and mothers. Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) during the first six months after birth is recommended by health organizations worldwide. However, in today’s busy urban life, many working mothers opt for artificial formula milk as a substitute for breast milk. In this blog, we will explore the potential health risks associated with formula feeding and emphasize the significance of breastfeeding for the optimal development and well-being of infants.

1.Health Risks Associated with Formula Feeding:

 Formula milk, while a convenient alternative, may not provide the same level of health benefits as breast milk.

Here are some key points to consider:

a. Increased Risk of Infections:

Breast milk contains essential antibodies and nutrients that boost a baby’s natural immunity. Scientific studies have shown that formula-fed infants are more susceptible to bacterial infections such as pneumonia and diarrhea, leading to higher mortality rates compared to breastfed babies.

b. Potential for Serious Diseases:

Formula milk is not always 100 percent sterile and can contain harmful bacteria, such as Schizella, Salmonella, and Cronobacter. These bacteria can cause severe illnesses like sepsis, meningitis, and necrotizing enterocolitis.

c. Long-term Health Effects:

Studies indicate that formula-fed babies may face an increased risk of various health issues later in life, including childhood obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, bone marrow cancer, asthma, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

d. Dental and Ear Health:

Breastfeeding promotes proper dental and bone development, while formula feeding may lead to an increased risk of cavities, middle ear infections, and delayed physical abilities in infants.

e. Cognitive and Neurological Development:

Breast milk contains essential nutrients that aid in optimal brain development. Some studies suggest that formula-fed infants may experience lower cognitive abilities and delayed milestones such as crawling and walking.

2.Maternal Health Considerations:

Breastfeeding not only benefits infants but also contributes to the overall well-being of mothers.

Here are some notable points:

a. Reduced Risk of Diseases:

Breastfeeding has been linked to a decreased risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic disorders in mothers.

b. Bonding and Emotional Benefits:

Breastfeeding fosters a deep emotional connection between mother and child, promoting bonding and nurturing.

3.Promoting Breastfeeding and Public Awareness:

Given the numerous advantages of breastfeeding, it is crucial to raise public awareness on the importance of breastfeeding and discourage the unnecessary use of formula milk.

The following measures can help promote breastfeeding:

a. Prenatal and Postnatal Support:

Obstetricians and healthcare professionals should provide comprehensive education and guidance on the benefits of breastfeeding during prenatal visits and after birth.

b. Strengthening Legislation:

Enforcing legislation, such as the Bangladesh Breast Milk Substitutes and Infant Food Act-2013, can deter the promotion and marketing of breast milk substitutes and encourage breastfeeding.

c. Public Awareness Programs:

Increased public awareness through campaigns, workshops, and educational materials can help dispel misconceptions about formula feeding and highlight the advantages of breastfeeding.

d. Consultation with Healthcare Professionals:

It is essential for mothers to consult healthcare professionals before resorting to formula feeding. They can provide guidance on suitable alternatives and address concerns related to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding plays an indispensable role in promoting the optimal health and development of infants. While formula milk may serve as a substitute when breastfeeding is not possible, it falls short in providing the same level of health benefits as breast milk. The scientific evidence presented reinforces the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth. It is crucial to raise awareness, provide support, and discourage the unnecessary use of formula milk to ensure the well-being of both babies and mothers.

Dr. Md. Delwar Hossain, MD Researcher, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Shahbagh, Dhaka


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