Breastfeeding Facts

sequoia, distracted from breastfeeding - _MG_3551

sequoia, distracted from breastfeeding – _MG_3551 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

Biology 42 – Human Biology (Spring 2007)

Breastfeeding Facts

[ Students and professors, please read. ]

From the lecture notes I learned that, today, 60% of women try to breastfeed, but only 20% continue past 6 months of their infant’s birth (I am included in both the 60% figure and the 20% figure).  Shockingly, in our parents’ generation, only 20% of women tried to breastfeed.  Oddly, princes historically have breastfed for 15 years.  Worldwide, five years (!!!) is the average length of time for mothers to breastfeed their children.  The mortality rate in Egypt increases at 3 years of age, the approximate time of weaning.  Breast milk contains protective antibodies of all the immunities the mother has, as well as staves off allergic reactions, allergies and asthma.  Breast milk contains lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fats, and there are 300 components in breast milk.  Formula, a substitute for free, nutritious breast milk, costs $1500 per year, its packaging is bad for the environment, and it is not as healthy as breast milk.  There is less sodium and protein in breast milk than in formula, so there is less stress on the kidneys, and calcium and iron in breast milk is in a form that is easily absorbed.  Formula fed babies visit the doctor twice as often as breastfed babies, as well as being hospitalized for bacterial infections, SIDS, cancer, dermatitis, ear infections, diarrhea, diabetes, and liver disease four times as often as breastfed babies.  Breast milk is sterile and always the right temperature, unless extracted and refrigerated.  Breastfed babies have less diarrhea and diaper rash, have less colic, gas and spit up.  Breast milk helps to avoid childhood weight problems for several reasons:  Its composition changes between morning and night, it goes from whole milk in the first month to low fat in the seventh month, during a feeding more fat is added the longer the child nurses, and more feedings mean an increased fat content.  Because breast milk contains essential fats that are parts of the myelin sheath insulating nerve cells, even if the mother does not eat the correct fats, and because there is a lot of cholesterol in human milk and none in cows’ milk and cholesterol is needed in brain development, and (somehow) because human milk has more lactose than any other mammalian milk (the more lactose in milk – the larger the mammal’s brain) – IQ scores increase 5-10 points if a child is breastfed.  Probably due to the difference in nipples, breastfed babies are 40% less likely to have misaligned teeth.  They also have better eyesight.  Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may be related to the overabundance of magnesium in formula (couldn’t confirm with an independent source).  And, finally, breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer in both mom and baby.

Unfortunately there were no sources listed in the lecture notes for any of these facts, and (at least the ninth edition of) the text does not cover breast feeding.

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