7.2.1 Benefits to the newborn of breastfeeding
Breast milk is the ideal feed for full term newborns as it provides all the nutrients in the correct amount and proportion for normal growth and development until the age of six months. It is easily digested and absorbed. Also, breast milk is clean and warm, and avoids the dangers of feeding formula milk which comes as a powder and has to be made up with water and fed in a bottle.
Can you suggest the sources of risk to the newborn from badly made formula milk?
There is a risk of infection from making the milk with contaminated water, or if the bottles and teats are not properly sterilised. If the mother makes several feeds at one time, and she cannot keep them cold because she has no refrigeration facilities, bacteria may grow in the warm milk. Also, if she puts too little or too much milk powder in each bottle, the baby will suffer from malnourishment if the formula is too weak, or it will get an excessive load on its organs from too concentrated formula.
Breast milk contains many anti-infective factors, such as antibodies, living cells and molecules that help the baby's body to fight infection. It also encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the newborn's bowel. These properties of breast milk help to prevent diarrhoeal diseases, the major cause of death of newborns in poor communities.
Breast milk also decreases the risk of allergy in the newborn. Allergies are adverse reactions of the body against components of the diet, pollen from plants, animals and other harmless things that touch the body or get into it through the nose, mouth or eyes. Newborns are more at risk of allergies if there is a strong family history of allergy.