Despite great strides in the science of infant nutrition, the truth is, there’s no perfect substitute for breast milk. Breastfeeding is still the healthiest way to nourish your infant. Here’s why.

It’s nutritionally complete.
The nutritional composition of your breast milk changes throughout lactation to precisely meet the needs of your baby, promoting optimal growth and development. There are three stages in the evolution of breast milk, each with specific benefits.

  • Colostrum is produced in the first few days of breastfeeding, is a thick, sticky, and yellowish liquid, and is rich in antibodies to protect your baby from illness while their own immune system is developing.
  • Transitional Milk develops three to four days after your baby is born, at which point your baby needs to feed as often as every hour. Keeping this schedule will help establish a steady and plentiful volume of your milk supply.
  • Mature Milk follows transitional milk made up of two parts. Fore-milk comes at the start of each feed, and quenches your baby’s thirst. Hind-milk is thicker with a higher fat content, satisfying your baby’s hunger.

It boosts your baby’s immunity.
At each stage of milk production, your baby will receive antibodies that help them fight against infections. These antibodies build up your baby’s defenses against childhood illness, significantly decreasing the chances that your baby will get sick, and helping your infant conquer the illness more quickly and effectively should they get sick. As your child grows up, having been breastfed as a baby continues to make them less susceptible to health problems including diabetes, obesity and asthma.

It’s healthy for you, too.
Breastfeeding benefits the mother in a number of ways. It helps the uterus to contract, helps the bleeding after delivery cease more quickly, and reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Also, the skin-to-skin contact required to breastfeed can help to boost the mother’s production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps milk flow and can also calm the mother. Lastly, the closeness between the mother and baby during breastfeeding can lower the risk of postpartum depression.

It helps you and your baby bond.
Lastly, breastfeeding offers a unique and very special opportunity for a mother and child to bond. It will make your baby feel more secure, comforted, and warm. Your baby will associate the pleasures of feeding with sound of your voice, the smell of your skin, and the sight of your smile.

Physical contact is important. So, enjoy the quiet and relaxing time that breastfeeding requires, as well as the closeness between you and your child that the bond of breastfeeding nurtures.

Source: Chew, Peter, et al. The Essential Guide for First-Time Asian Mums and Dads. 2011.