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Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease
New parents want to give their babies the very best. When it comes to nutrition, the best first food for babies is breast milk. Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has the ideal amount of fat, sugar, calories, protein and vitamins that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Breast milk is perfectly suited to nourish infants and protect them from illness, as it has specific antibodies that help protect a baby from infectious diseases. Infants that are breastfed have lower rates of hospital admissions, ear infections, lower respiratory infections (such as pneumonia and bronchilitis), meningitis, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, rashes, and other medical problems than bottle-fed babies. Babies that are breastfed may be less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) according to studies. Breastfed babies may have less gas and discomfort due to easy digestibility. Benefits from breastfeeding can last throughout life, individuals who are breastfed are less likely to have allergies, insulin-dependent diabetes, and certain chronic intestinal diseases. Studies show that breastfeeding can enhance brain development as well, children that breastfeed may score higher on tests of cognitive ability than children who were formula fed. Also, recent studies have linked breastfeeding with a child’s reduced risk of obesity later in life, providing further evidence to promote breastfeeding.
Mothers benefit from breastfeeding as well. Breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract, therefore reducing bleeding after delivery and shrinking the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size sooner. Breastfeeding burns more calories so mothers can return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. Research has also indicated that breastfeeding may lower the risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer as well as increasing bone strength.
While the benefits of breastfeeding are clear, there are several reasons why many women still choose to use formula. Lack of family and community support, and lack of public acceptance and accommodation are some of the reasons women may choose formula feeding verses breastfeeding.
West Virginia EveryDay: A Statewide Plan to Improve Physical Activity and Nutrition
Health Promotion and Chronic Disease
350 Capitol Street, Room 514
Charleston, WV 25301-3715