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Dr. Chinny Obinwanne: Is The Hype About Breastfeeding Really Worth It?

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I recently heard from a mother that there is barely any difference between breastmilk and formula, and that all of the breastmilk hype is false.

According to research, Nigeria is one of the top 3 countries with the highest number of newborn mortality rates worldwide. These are babies that die within the first 28 days (newborn period) of birth

The care of a newborn begins from pregnancy. The mother’s health and her nutritional intake have a great impact on the growth and survival of the baby.

After birth, breastmilk is the baby’s first vaccine, which gives the best protection against illnesses and diseases. During pregnancy is when an expecting mother has the opportunity to learn more about breastfeeding, so that she may kickstart breastfeeding immediately after delivery.

The advantages of breastfeeding are numerous. Breast milk is ultimately the best source of nutrition for a new baby. Many components in breast milk help protect your baby against infections and diseases, especially in those early days. The proteins in breast milk are more easily digested than in formula milk. The calcium and iron in breast milk are also more easily absorbed.

So let’s analyze breastmilk. Is it really worth it? Is it really befitting the title liquid gold?

Breastmilk contains the perfect combination of protein. At the newborn period, breastmilk contains 90% of whey protein and 10% of casein protein, and this changes to 60% and 40% respectively afterwards. Whey protein is easy on the bowel of a newborn so its easily digested, providing constant nutrient to the baby. Formula has more casein to whey ratio. The importance of whey protein lies on its immunological defense components which include

  1. Lactoferrin.
  2. Alpha-lactalbumin.
  3. Serum albumin.
  4. Immunoglobulins.
  5. Lysozyme.

These might sound like jargons to you. All you need to know is that these components equip your newborn to fight a host of infections, giving your newborn a 90% chance at survival.

Breastmilk also contains fat, which provides about half of the calories for your baby’s daily needs. Hindmilk, which is the milk at the end of feeding, contains twice the amount of fat compared to foremilk, the milk at the beginning of feeding. Fat in breastmilk is also responsible for the higher visual acuity and cognitive ability of a child, promoting a healthy neurological growth.

Breastmilk contains vitamins and micronutrients. The amount of this in milk varies amongst mothers as it is dependent on diet and genetic background. Vitamin A is necessary for vision development, Vitamin D which is for bone growth is available in a little amount in breastmilk, so baby needs an additional daily intake, Vitamin E is an antioxidant, protecting the cells from injury, Vitamin K is required for blood clotting factors preventing bleeding.

Breastmilk also contains water-soluble vitamins, and these are very much reliant on the mother’s diet. If a mom is having a healthy diet she will have enough water-soluble vitamins in her milk. Breastmilk also contains minerals such as sodium, zinc, Iron (this is present in small amounts but the baby has built a reserve from the womb), calcium, magnesium, and more.

Breastmilk contains carbohydrate, which is mostly from lactose. The more frequent a baby feeds the more the lactose produced. This provides 40% of the calories needed by the baby. It also enhances calcium absorption, provides energy to the brain, and promotes the growth of lactobacillus, which is a probiotic.

Probiotics, which are living microorganisms, colonize the oral cavity of breastfed babies more frequently than formula fed babies. Breastmilk contains white blood cells, living cells that respond to infection by attacking and killing the foreign cells and bacteria.

Breastmilk contains antibodies and immunoglobulins, which provide important immunological protection for your baby, especially in the digestive tract, which is the point of first entry of bacteria.

Breastmilk contains 88% water, and this is more than enough water for your baby. The milk at the beginning of feeds has more water and helps quench thirst in babies.

There is a lot in breastmilk. I tried counting the components myself and I counted over 200. And I’m still counting! More than half of it cannot be manufactured.

In summary, breastmilk contains water, carbohydrate, protein, nonprotein nitrogens, amino acids, nucleotides, antimicrobial factors, enzymes, hormones, peptides, cytokines, vitamins, minerals, sterol, sphingolipids, phospholipids, triglycerides, etc.…. These all have a lot of components under them.

Is breastfeeding overrated? Please be the judge.

I will end by saying: Breastmilk is a mother-made wonder food. It cannot be replicated. With all that is loaded in it, every drop counts, and whatever the quantity is, it can always be worked on to produce more.

Photo Credit: © Feije Riemersma | Dreamstime.com

Chinny Obinwanne is a Medical Doctor, trained Lactation Consultant and a member of Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. With many years of dedicated training and experience in maternal and child health. She has been able to help thousands of mothers across the globe to achieve their breastfeeding goal. She can be found on www.themilkbooster.com

16 Comments

  1. Amy

    June 4, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Fantastic article! This is an issue I think the health sector should take more seriously. Thank you.

  2. Bowl

    June 4, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Yes, breastmilk is overrated.
    Let me stop here

  3. Miss Smart

    June 4, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Breastmilk is best but formula is not poison! Most Nigerian women breastfeed their babies, however the mortality rate remains staggering even in the 21st century. This should be looked into as a matter of urgency and the ” God gives and God takes” phrase should be banned! If the psyche was different and people looked into cause and effect, we won’t be where we are in our healthcare sector.

    As a mother myself, I know that the success of a baby starts from the womb. What one eats, sees, thinks and breathes( clean air with high oxygen percentage) before birthing a child, in my opinion is far more important that what comes after birth( of course assuming a good level of care and nutrition). The fibres molding the child in the womb comes down to the science of creating a quality child. Chuck all that eating for two b*llocks in the bin!

    Eat a healthy and nutritious balanced diet. Which includes all classes of food, and are safe for a pregnant woman. Carbs overloading can’t do pregnant women any good. The average Nigerian diet is guilty of this. We even kill most of the nutrients in our vegetables by over-cooking before they land on our plates.

    It’s okay to digress, no knowledge is a waste?

  4. Juliet

    June 4, 2018 at 10:07 am

    The importance of breast milk is actually underrated in Nigeria. We don’t have any baby friendly policies for nursing mothers. In Countries like Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark etc as advanced as they are, you would think they wouldn’t value it but no, a nursing mother gets 12 months paid Maternity leave. They have Lactation consultants in waiting once a mother gives birth to help with the process. The healthcare sector needs to pay more attention to this.

  5. Oma

    June 4, 2018 at 10:23 am

    @Bowl You name really suits you.ill suggest you preface it with “empty”. You just read an entire article outlining the benefits & nutritional value of breast milk, and without any facts or information to the contrary you state it is overrated. How ? certain people are unable to breast feeed for different valid reasons but you need to stop spreading misinformation. Breast feeding is not overrated

  6. Mariam

    June 4, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Please use facts and not assumption. Nigerian is NOT anywhere close to the top 3 infant mortality rate.
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/264714/countries-with-the-highest-infant-mortality-rate/

    • Chinny Obinwanne

      June 4, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      Hello dear, I used a recent published article from unicef “Every Child Alive”. According to it, Nigeria is the 3rd country with the largest number of newborn deaths.

  7. Asake

    June 4, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    I’m not sure people saying breast milk is overrated is a mother yet. If they are; they won’t be saying this. Let me tell you, nobody will even beg you before you bring your bobby out in public when the time comes. The love and bond between a mother and a child won’t let you think about the public sh*t. Breastfeeding is never overrated. Thank you!

  8. Bowl

    June 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    @Oma, yes breast milk is overrated. And I am a doctor.
    Women with organic only brain like yours never see beyond popular claims.
    Breast milk is good but at the same time whatever constitutes nourishment for a baby , that is well accepted by the baby is food for that baby . Human babies survive very well on any feed that i.e. age specific for them outside of breast milk. Quit with this breast milk propaganda.
    I ‘ve had enough of it to last me a life time .

  9. Bowl

    June 4, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    @Asake, enjoy it is your choice

  10. Mira

    June 5, 2018 at 12:04 am

    Thank you bowl. My 5 month old absolutely refuse breastmilk after the first month. But gues what she is stronger, healthier than my other babies that I breastfed. Just got me thinking how overrated breastmilk is. Hoe many mothers in the 1980s breastfed? That didn’t stop us from turning out well

  11. Ada_ugo

    June 5, 2018 at 9:21 am

    but this writeup is incomplete. Where is the other half that talks about the components available in Formula, comparing and contrasting it to those in breastmilk? How can you arrive at a conclusion without talking about the alternative?

  12. Oma

    June 5, 2018 at 10:43 am

    I wonder where you studied & practice @Dr empty bowl. You clearly should have your liscence revoked if as a “Dr” you would state that breast milk is overrated. If any thing a child accepts as food is okay for them why dont we go ahead and feed them soft drink & highly salted meals by your crazy logic. Children need a balanced diet to thrive. Breast milk is a perfect meal that contains the right amount of water i.e 80% , protein & fat. Breast milk has the ability to adapt & create antibodies against illness that the baby & mother have been exposed to . Thereby boosting the child’s immunity. Do you even know what overrated means? breast milk benefits are equal to its hype so how is overrated. Formula is cow milk that is broken down to best imitate breast milk & plenty of babies thrive on it. it doesnt mean that when possible breast isnt best. Dont be a typical Nigerian go and read up & defend that your “Dr” title

  13. MsE

    June 5, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Breast milk is great! But if you aren’t lactating, use formula. What matters, is that baby is adequately fed. I even did both and it worked out VERY well.

  14. Engoz

    June 8, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    I did both. I introduced formula after the first month. Didn’t do that exclusive breastfeeding for 6months o. Who do you want to kill? Lmao.

  15. Stephanie Cole

    June 21, 2018 at 2:25 am

    Interesting Article! Breastmilk is really the healthiest among all the milk out there. You feel safer as breastfeeding protects your baby from various diseases.

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