Breastfeeding VS. Baby Formula: Which is Really Better?

Written by Dennis Liu, Four Green Steps

Many people have a misconception about how to feed their new born babies. Breastfeeding is still the general trend, but it depends on what time scale we are talking about. Most mothers breastfeed their babies when they are first born, but they would soon switch to the new trend of using formulas.

According to the World Health Organization(WHO), 90.3% of Canadian babies have been breastfed before, and 51.7% are exclusively breastfed after 4 months. The U.S. has lower numbers, showing 73.9% babies have been breasted before, and only 33.1% babies are exclusively breasted after 4 months. Knowing these statistics, we can compare the general trend in North America with the official WHO recommendations: "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."

Why do new borns need to be breastfed up to two years of age? Why can't we simply use formula powdered milk? There are obviously benefits. Breast milk contains much more than any formula milk sold on the market. Surely, formula milk contains water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, and minerals; but breast milk has enzymes, growth factors, hormones, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic factors as well as those basic contents in formula milk. What do these extra ingredients in breast milk do to make breastfeeding so important? Firstly, the baby will receive health and physical benefits: less risk of infections by bacteria, virus, and parasites. Chances of diarrhea, respiratory infections, ear infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis occurring will be reduced by an extensive amount. There is also less risk for the baby to develop diabetes, Crohn's disease, sudden infant death syndrome, leukaemia, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, asthma, and Hodgkin's disease. All these health benefits owe thanks to the enzymes, growth factors, hormones, and the many immune factors present in breast milk. Secondly, the baby will be psychologically healthier as physical contacts during breastfeeding increases mother-to-child bonding. Benefits do not only go to the baby, the mother can also gain from breastfeeding: less risk of postpartum haemorrhage, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer; more weight loss after birth; and increased bone density. In fact, the whole family can profit from breastfeeding as it is much cheaper than buying formula powdered milk. Lastly, it is very environmentally friendly to feed babies with breast milk instead of buying massively produced formula milk.