from Breastfeeding Your Baby by Sheila Kitzinger

Copyright © 1989, 1998 by Sheila Kitzinger

A Dorling Kindersley Book,



The best way to help your baby grow normally, and to give every possible protection against disease, is to breastfeed for one year, and exclusively for five or six months of life.


Breast milk is one of the most energy-dense foods in existence. Its ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrate concentrations is uniquely adapted to the baby's needs, and varies at different times in the day, even during a single feed. When a baby is first put to the breast, the first milk that is available—the foremilk —is watery, so if she is just thirsty, a short suck will satisfy her. The longer a baby sucks from one breast, the more fat and protein she obtains.


It's impossible for artificial milk to adapt to the baby's needs in this way. It is important to continue giving breast milk after weaning foods have been introduced. A baby would have to eat a huge amount of solid food such as cereal, mashed fruit f vegetables to get the level of nutrition available in breast milk.



Ninety percent of the carbohydrate in breast milk is in the form of lactose—milk sugar—compared wit h 4 percent in cow's milk. In a breastfed baby the passage of the milk through the intestines is faster than in a bottle-fed baby. Some of the lactose turns into lactic acid, which has the power to resist harmful bacteria, making the bowel movements looser. Lactose in breast milk is less sweet than the sucrose added to cow's milk to make infant formula. So bottle-fed babies become used to very sweet milk. Once teeth come through this can result in tooth decay.


Fat is more easily absorbed from breast milk than from cow's milk. Babies who do not get enough essential fatty acids develop dermatitis, have a low blood platelet count, which results in hemorrhages under the skin, are susceptible to infection, and fail to thrive. This combination of symptoms never occurs in breastfed babies.



Breastfed babies do not usually require any supplementary minerals or vitamins; in fact giving supplements unnecessarily can be harmful. A healthy, well-fed woman produces milk rich in all the vitamins and minerals a baby needs. Breast milk is low in salt, potassium and chloride; cow's milk has three times as much. Babies do not need this heavy concentration of minerals, and excess quantities harm the kidneys.


Breast milk also contains the correct balance of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, which are important for growth. Breastfed babies are unlikely to be short of iron and zinc. These are also in cow's milk but are less easily absorbed.



Breast milk contains at least six anti-infective agents against common childhood illnesses. And artificially fed baby is four times more likely to get pneumonia, and nearly twice as likely to catch a cold. Formula-fed babies are more than twelve times more likely to suffer diarrhea than breastfed babies, antibodies against viruses and bacteria are present in breast milk, protecting the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.


If there are allergies in your family, your baby will benefit from prolonged breastfeeding. She may still develop asthma or eczema, but the onset is later and less severe. Two percent of babies have an allergy to cow's milk. A baby with this allergy who starts on breast milk may be able to tolerate some cow's milk after a few months. One final benefit of breast milk is that it is completely clean. Unless care is taken with sterilizing and making sure the milk is made up fresh, artificial milk may be contaminated.