Breastfeeding vs. Formula Milk vs. Cow’s Milk
Being a new mother can be overwhelming. Apart from the postpartum stress, a crying baby, and physical exhaustion, you also have to take several critical decisions. One of the most important ones is your baby’s nutrition, and deciding which milk is the best for him, breast milk, formula milk, or cow’s milk. This article will make it easy for you to choose the right one.
Breast milk should always be your priority
Breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best nutrition for your child, especially during the first 6 months. This is because it provides all the right nutrients for your baby as he grows. Here’s why breastfeeding is good for your baby:
- Breast milk is the easiest for your baby to digest, especially during the first 6 months.
- It has all the nutrients, calories, and fluids that your baby needs to grow and stay healthy.
- It has many immunity-building substances that formula milk doesn’t contain. This helps protect your baby against several diseases and infections, including diarrhoea, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, meningitis, and ear infection.
- Your baby’s organs will grow rapidly in the first 6 months, and breast milk contains the vital nutrients necessary to ensure this.
- Breastfeeding is also likely to protect your infant against many lifestyle-related disorders later in life, like diabetes, obesity, colitis, certain cancers, and asthma.
- Breast milk doesn’t need to be prepared and is always available for the baby.
- Apart from the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding also helps strengthen the bond between the mother and the baby.
Breastfeeding benefits for the mother
Not only is breastfeeding great for the baby, but it’s also great for the mother. It helps you burn calories, gets your uterus to pre-pregnancy size faster, keeps your bones strong, and reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Breast milk vis-à-vis other milks
For the first 6 months, your infant should exclusively drink breast milk. After that, you can start complementing breast milk with specific foods.
Formula vs. cow’s milk
If you are unable to breastfeed because of any reason, you must be wondering what is the best alternative to breast milk. In such cases, formula milk is your answer. If you are thinking why formula milk instead of cow’s milk, here are the reasons why you should opt for the former.
- Infants cannot digest cow’s milk as easily or properly as baby formula
- Cow’s milk contains high amounts of proteins, sodium, and potassium. This can put undue pressure on the infant’s underdeveloped kidneys and cause problems like fever, diarrhoea, or heat stress. Plus, cow’s milk protein can also irritate the lining of the baby’s stomach and intestine, leading to blood loss via stools. This can lead to iron deficiency, resulting in anaemia. Additionally, the fat contained in cow’s milk is not particularly healthy for infants. For these reasons, you should avoid giving cow’s milk until your child is at least one year old.
- Formula milk has the right amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients that are vital for infants and are lacking in cow’s milk.
Should you give your child cow’s milk at all?
Once your child is a year old, you can start giving him cow’s milk as it’s a good source of proteins. However, here are some important things to keep in mind when giving cow’s milk:
- Make sure your child follows a healthy diet of solid foods as well and is not completely dependent on cow’s milk.
- Restrict the consumption of cow’s milk to 1 litre a day. More than this may prevent your child from consuming the other nutrient-dense foods that he needs.
- Provide only whole milk or reduced-fat (2%) milk until your child is two years old. Children need high fat content at this age, so whole vitamin D milk is the best option. If your child is at risk of developing childhood obesity, your doctor may recommend reduced-fat (2%) milk instead.
- Avoid non-fat and skimmed milk until your child is two years old. This is because non-fat or skimmed milk has a very high concentration of proteins, sodium, and potassium, which aren’t suitable for children under two years of age. Even after your child turns two, consult his paediatrician before giving him non-fat/low-fat milk.
So, to recap, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your child. For the first 6 months, your child can thrive exclusively on breast milk. If breastfeeding is not a viable option, baby formula is the next best choice. And cow’s milk should be avoided completely during the child’s first year.