Nourishment through breastfeeding and formula


Nutrition is very important in the development of infants and toddlers. Lack of nourishment can lead to developmental shortcomings and failure to thrive. There is also such a thing as too much. The number of overweight infants and children has increased 2.5 percent since 1980 (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008).

It has been proven time and time again that breast milk has the best nutritional benefits for infants. The bonding that breast feeding promotes is also beneficial for the infant. There is skin contact which is comforting to an infant, and eye contact, which reinforces bonding with the mother and helps establish confidence. Breast feeding has also been proven to be beneficial for the mother because it helps minimize bleeding after delivery, prevents postpartum depression, helps the mother return to her prepregnancy weight, and after menopause may prevent ovarian and breast cancer along with osteoporosis. (Peterson, 2004)

Breast feeding prevents obesity in infants. Breast milk flows slower from the body than formula does from the bottle. This gives the baby an active part in their food intake regulation(Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008). Part of this may be an infants feelings of comfort when they are nursing and tendency to fall asleep before they manage to drink as much as they could from a bottle which requires less work. Breast milk also starts out as being thin, the premilk, gets thicker in the middle of nursing and then thins out again at the end of nursing. This cycle helps the infant feel full and know when it is time to stop nursing. Formula is the same consistency the whole way through and may not alert the baby as well when the baby has had enough.

The percentage of breast fed babies has risen dramatically in the United States since hospitals enacted programs that helped teach and support women who were learning to breast feed. Offering more friendly environments for breast feeding also has helped promote it in the United States (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008). When the mother cannot breast feed, iron enriched formulas are the next best thing. These are usually cow or soy protein based and are enriched with iron and other vitamins to mimic breast milk (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008). The convenience of these formulas has made it possible for women to be in the work force and have also made it possible for some infants to survive in cases where the mother had an infectious disease or could not breast feed for another reason. In countries where there is a lack of nourishment due to a poor economy, the introduction of formula and other iron enriched foods have dramatically improved the health of the children in those areas (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008). One reason for this may be that breast milk is dependent on what the mother eats. Women who are lacking in their diets often lack essential properties in their breast milk. Some babies are being fed an equivalent of 2 percent milk while others get the equivalent of 9 percent milk (Peterson, 2004).

For proper development babies need essential fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Both DHA and AA are a product of what the mother eats. If the mother eats a high cholesterol and low fat diet, the mild will be lacking in the essential fatty acids and can lead to slower development in the brain (Peterson, 2004). Alcohol intake can also impact the quantity and quality of a mother's milk (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008).

In low economic circumstances, where it is not easy to have a well balanced diet, and in mothers that are not mindful what they are taking in while breast feeding, iron based formula can be very helpful in the development of a child. The mother just needs to be careful of how much the baby is eating and try to keep the baby within the proper weight. Nourishment is an important part of development and missing the essential fatty acids can irreparably hinder development in infants. Giving the infant too much formula, and eventually food, can lead to obesity in the infant and eventually the child which has its own health risk. Parents should be educated on how and what to feed their children and themselves (if they are breastfeeding) in order to give their children the best possible start to life and set them up to be healthy adults with minimal health problems.


Papalia, D., Olds, S., & Feldman, R. (2008). A Child's World, Infancy through Adolescence 11th Edition, McGraw Hill

Peterson, K. (April, 2004). Top Quality Breast Milk, retrieved July 18, 2010 from

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