Breastfeeding - Advantages and Disadvantages

Benefits to breastfeeding

For the infant

1. Human breast milk is specific for the needs of human infants.

2. Breastfed infant takes what he/she wants, no more. Bottle-fed infants may be overfed.

3. The unique composition of breast milk provides the ideal nutrients for human brain growth, especially in the first year of life. The cholesterol, DHA and taurine are readily available in human breast milk and not in cow's milk. These are added in to formula milk. The absorption and utilisation of constituents in human breast milk far exceeds those for formula milk.

4. Breastfeeding can protect the infant against insulin resistance (the mechanism that causes diabetes mellitus), high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and heart attacks in later life.

5. Breastfeeding can protect the infant against childhood obesity and improve the upward social mobility.

6. Breast milk contains white blood cells, specific antibodies and other antimicrobial factors that protect breastfed infants against many common infections (especially gastrointestinal infections, respiratory tract infections and urinary tract infections).

7. Breastfed babies have less chance of developing childhood cancers (e.g. lymphomas, acute leukaemias), type I diabetes mellitus and Crohn's disease.

8. Breastfed babies have a lower chance of developing allergies like eczema and asthma during childhood.

9. Breastfed babies seem to have high intelligence levels, and were more mature, secure and assertive.

10. Breastfed babies may also have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

For the mother

1. Mothers who breastfeed lose weight more quickly than mothers who don't, and have a lower incidence of obesity in later life.

2. Mothers who breastfeed have lower risks for osteoporosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart attacks, stroke, high cholesterol levels and diabetes mellitus.

3. Mothers who breastfeed report better bonding with the infants.

Who should not breastfeed

1. Mothers with certain infections (e.g. HIV, HTLV-1), or who are taking certain radioactive agents used at therapeutic doses.

2. Babies with the rare genetic condition of galactosemia cannot tolerate lactose.

Disadvantages of breastfeeding

1. May be inconvenient.

2. The high commitment to the infant for 6-12 feedings per day for months may be overwhelming.

3. Failure to breastfeed often result in guilt, shame and other anxieties. It is recongised that some normal women cannot or will not nurse their babies.