By Dr Seema Khanna
Milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns. Breast milk offers health benefits to a mother and her child. It benefits the infant by providing natural antibiotics, while increasing intelligence and decreasing the likelihood of contracting middle ear infections. It also increases cold and flu resistance, while reducing the risk of juvenile diabetes. It also assists the uterus in returning to its pre-pregnancy size and reduces post-partum bleeding, as well as helping the mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight. It brings down the risk of cancer later in life.
Breastfeeding does not only impact a newborn’s health, but also strengthens a mother’s bond with her child and her own health. However, a woman can face several health concerns due to prolonged breastfeeding. While breast milk is the best milk beyond any doubt, due to certain circumstances, it may need to be substituted or supplemented. In such cases, parents turn to formula milk.
Why formula milk?
Formula milk is manufactured and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and does contain lots of nutrients to match the breastfeed. A family member or caretaker can feed your baby when the mother is not available. A mother can regulate the amount of milk consumed by the baby during each feed. The gap can be more as compared to breastfed infants, the tummy remains filled for a longer period of time.
Mothers using formula need not worry about how their diet will affect the baby. If a mother is breastfeeding the baby, then ideally formula feed should be started after the age of six months, along with other foods which are started at the age of six months. Sometimes, moms aren’t able to breastfeed for medical reasons or might also have a demanding schedule that doesn’t allow flexibility. At this point, formula feed is introduced. Nowadays, formula feed for newborns are also available, fortified with lots of nutrients, though it cannot be compared with breastmilk.
Most importantly, with breastfeeding, there are low chances of diarrhea as the chances of contamination are minimal. It also strengthens baby’s immune system. However, research has shown that formula feeds are prepared are safe for babies.
(The writer is a consultant nutritionist.)