New parents have to decide how to feed their baby. It is important to understand what is in breast milk and formula, how they differ in cost, and how they affect your baby’s health and sleep.
Let’s start by comparing breast milk to formula. In some respects, the formula is similar to breast milk: it contains nutrients, moisture, and energy-rich ingredients, so your baby will grow with either diet.
However, despite notable advances in the development and production of infant formula, in terms of health benefits, it does not compare with breast milk. Breast milk is the product of millions of years of evolution, making it the ideal food for babies. It is much more complex than the milk of other mammals because it contributes to the formation of a more complex brain, and a unique digestive, and immune system.
Can I feed my baby cow’s milk?
Cow’s milk, the basis of most formula milk, meets the special needs of calves. It is dangerous for human babies to drink it in its pure form, which is why it undergoes complex processing when preparing infant milk formulas.
It is important to know that the level of salt (sodium) in cow’s milk is toxic to babies. In the early 1980s, cow’s milk was found to be toxic to test animals – rabbits and mice. Nowadays, if a substance is found to be toxic to test animals, it is not used in drug research. Breast milk, on the other hand, has a very low concentration of sodium.
So pure animal milk is not suitable for breastfeeding babies.
The composition of breast milk
Every drop of breast milk, whether it’s colostrum, which forms a protective coating on a newborn’s stomach mucosa, or mature milk, which promotes child growth and development, contains thousands of beneficial ingredients, among them:
- antibodies to protect against disease;
- hormones to stimulate a healthy appetite and strengthen the bond between mother and baby;
- stem cells to promote the development and repair of organs;
- white blood cells to fight infections;
- beneficial bacteria that protect your baby’s digestive system;
- prebiotics – oligosaccharides – to maintain healthy microflora in the gastrointestinal tract;
- long-chain fatty acids for the development of the brain, nervous system, and eyes;
- enzymes to strengthen the digestive and immune systems;
- nucleotides and hormones that promote healthy sleep patterns.
One of the advantages of breast milk compared to a formula is that it is life-giving. It adapts to your baby’s changing needs. When your baby is sick, your breast milk increases the number of white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection.
“The protective properties of mother’s milk are its main feature and a unique result of the evolution of lactation, but humans do not yet have enough data to understand all the protective functions of milk because it has a very complex composition.”
Composition of infant formula
The composition of formula can vary by country and manufacturer, but usually, infant formula is made from processed skimmed cow’s milk with the addition of emulsifiers and stabilizers to facilitate the process of mixing fats with water when the formula is diluted. The composition may also include:
- Lactose (the natural sugar found in milk) and/or other sweeteners such as corn syrup, fructose, or maltodextrin;
- Vegetable fats, such as palm oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or soybean oil
- Fatty acids, usually fish oil-based;
- Vitamins and minerals of plant and animal origin;
- Certain enzymes and amino acids;
- Probiotics (in some mixtures).
Note that other types of formula, such as hypoallergenic, goat milk, or soy-based formula may have a different composition.
And this in turn is responsible for healthy teeth and bones, vigor and well-being, excellent memory, and intelligence. After all, the two most common minerals in the human body are phosphorus and calcium. This tandem is responsible for bone strength and overall health. As in nature, phosphorus is “active” in the body when it enters into biochemical reactions with other elements. But other substances are also needed for their full function. In addition to calcium, it interacts with vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium, so the diet should include foods rich not only in phosphorus but also in other elements.