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Not seeing any health benefits from ebf. Is breast really best?

(47 Posts)
SpoonfulOfJam Mon 24-Mar-14 07:23:43

My LO is nearly 5 months old and on his 5th cold. Each one worse than the last and lasting about 2 weeks. So he's been under the weather for approximately half his life. Yeas, he's a winter baby, but also ebf. I thought my milk was meant to keep him healthy and give him a better start to life than formula.

Looking at ff family members who are strong, healthy and rarely ill, I am seriously questioning whether breast is actually any different to ff in terms of the child's health. Is the only benefits really that there is no sterilising involved (and that it's immediate and can be done half asleep - which is why I don't intend to move to ff).

So I guess I'm asking if anyone knows why we are encouraged to bf, why I keep hearing breast is best when in fact my LO is always poorly.

SpoonfulOfJam Mon 24-Mar-14 07:26:35

Dammit- this isn't meant to be one of those debates bf vs ebf. I'm just pissed off and sort of feel that the HVs are not giving me any justification for their advice. Pissed off that my little baby is ill and my milk is doing fuck all for him.

Pooka Mon 24-Mar-14 07:27:51

I suppose you don't know how poorly your dc might have been if not breastfed. So the fact that he's had several colds isn't indicative that breast milk has no added health benefits. He might have had similar or worse colds in terms of frequency and duration if he had been drinking formula rather than breast milk.

Fwiw mine varied in terms of how many colds they had - and clearly the summer born dc had fewer than the autumn born, probably because she was less exposed to viruses.

noblegiraffe Mon 24-Mar-14 07:28:12

Because your baby is just one baby and you don't know how poorly he'd have been on formula. When you look at bfed babies as a group, versus ffed babies as a group there are fewer instances of certain illnesses.

Pooka Mon 24-Mar-14 07:30:55

The passing of antibodies from mother to infant isn't the only health benefit referred to.

I suppose if you look at it from the perspective of "breast is the physiological norm while formula is an adequate substitution" rather than "breast is best" it might be better. Bit less catchy though wink

Orangeisthenewbanana Mon 24-Mar-14 07:34:55

Sorry you're feeling so frustrated & that your LO is poorly so often. I just wondered if you had taken him to the doctor for any or all of his colds? Could there be another underlying problem that's making him more susceptible? I don't want to worry you unnecessarily but might it be worth asking if you haven't already?

OTOH, if he's around other young children a lot (siblings, classes, nursery) that could just as easily explain it too!

OrangeMochaFrappucino Mon 24-Mar-14 07:36:50

People always have a range of anecdotes - super healthy ff babies and sickly ebf babies and vice versa - they tend to balance equally on these threads. My winter born ebf baby was exceptionally healthy and we never bought Calpol til he was 10 months old and started at the childminder's where he picked up his first cold. He has vomited twice in his life (age 3.5 now). Is that bfing or would he have been exactly the same on formula? There is no way of knowing.

The health benefits are based on population and averages so it's not as simple as breast=best therefore every bf baby will be healthier than every ff baby. It just doesn't work like that. On an individual level, you will never know what -if any - difference it has made.

Also, I think the past few months have seen an awful lot of bugs go round because it's been such a damp and relatively mild winter so maybe this has contributed to your baby's colds. There is one in particular which is hard to shake and keeps recurring, we have all had it in my family!

TheUnstoppableWindmill Mon 24-Mar-14 07:40:32

There are health benefits to you too- I know my consultant SIL really thought that the breast cancer link (women who BF are less likely to develop it) was potentially quite strong, though I think the benefits may really kick in for women feeding for longer than 12mo or similar. Anyway, as others have said, antibodies aren't the only benefit- things like less risk of developing ear infections... Your HV should probably be telling you much more. Nowt wrong with FF though!

CountessOfRule Mon 24-Mar-14 07:43:27

The "healthier bf" thing is calculated from hospital admissions I think. So a child who is perfectly well until he has a night in hospital with croup is less healthy than a child with continual colds/coughs.

Have you had all the bugs too? If so, your milk has effectively been his medicine.

It does suck though.

secretspy Mon 24-Mar-14 07:43:52

I volunteer in breastfeeding support and this thread has really warmed my heart so read such sensible balanced responsesthanks
I agree with all the pps

SpoonfulOfJam Mon 24-Mar-14 07:49:20

Thanks all. Totally agree nothing wrong with ff (I'm honestly just too lazy to consider it, but it seemed very attractive during the early days)

Yes, I see now that one baby can't really tell the same story that a population can.

We go to a lot of groups so he has plenty of opportunity to pick up germs. He has his jabs tomorrow- providing they think he's well enough. The nurses who do them seem pretty knowledgeable so ill have a chat about his general health.

Pooka- less catchy, but seems more accurate.

Thanks again for comments.

MrsKCastle Mon 24-Mar-14 07:55:57

I know how you feel, DD1 was ebf and always seemed to be getting ill. I remember feeling almost tricked at times! Sometimes the hcps seemed to imply that bfing would mean your DCs were always in perfect health.

But of course it doesn't work like that. Every child is different. Statistically bfing is better but you can't predict how healthy an individual baby will be.

I will say, though that my 2 are now 5.7 and 2.9 and very rarely get ill, so perhaps we're seeing the long term benefits- who knows?

OrangeMochaFrappucino Mon 24-Mar-14 07:59:28

I'm the same, Spoonful, I love bfing because I'm too lazy and disorganized for sterilizing and making up bottles. Any other benefits that may or may not manifest themselves are just a bonus!

I personally am ill all the sodding time (was ebf). I envy my son's immune system however he came by it!

ethelb Mon 24-Mar-14 08:04:09

Of course you wouldnt see it in one baby. Breast is best at a population level.

OrangeMochaFrappucino Mon 24-Mar-14 08:06:07

Also I guess some babies are admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis from incorrectly made up / unsterile bottles so they would contribute to the statistics of ff babies being less healthy without having anything to do with how many colds etc infants pick up, bf or not IYSWIM.

The pro-bf message that annoys me is that you will find it easy to lose weight when feeding - I couldn't shift anything until I stopped at 14 months. I know for lots of women it falls off, but that's where I felt cheated - my mum filled my head with wild tales of being super slim with giant boobs and eating as much cake as you like which was definitely not my experience! Again, it is true for lots of women though (lucky, lucky women!).

TheScience Mon 24-Mar-14 08:07:49

DS1 never had a cold as a baby, DS2 (3 weeks) already has one - both breastfed, the difference is DS2 has a big brother and cousin who both go to nursery breathing their germs over him. Breastmilk is good but it isn't magic - it can't guarantee total immunity.

Blu Mon 24-Mar-14 08:48:07

I always thought the benefits were long term rather than immediate, and the average population results show up in a range of conditions in later life.

Also certain infectious illnesses where breast milk can pass on antibodies, but the cold buys changed so often that none if us develop immunity to 'a cold', so you can't pass on anti bodies to a cold you have not developed a resistance to. I think it is passed-on antibodies that count, rather than end fending off all and sundry.

Bettertobehealthy Tue 05-Aug-14 09:38:29

Spoonful -

your breast milk may be deficient in Vitamin D .

The government recommends that all babies over 6 months receive 300 IU of Vitamin D per day. That is the British government. The USA gov recommends 400 IU per day starting just a few days after birth.

Vitamin D has a marked effect on immune function , and very likely , if your baby had a full complement of vitamin D , there would be far fewer incidences of respiratory infections. ( also other infections )

Formula milk does have vitamin D in it, but does not have all the other beneficial attributes , antibodies etc.

IF you wanted to dose yourself with vitamin D , in order to pass it on to baby within your own milk , you will need to take approx 4000 IU per day . In this way your baby will be getting the proper share.

OR , use the baby drops , as recommended in the official NHS guidlines.

Hope this helps.


PS. The number of babies that receive the recommended drops is very small, it is actually a severe oversight in health management in this country. Very many adults are vitamin D deficient , especially in winter and early spring so, breast fed winter babies are particularly at risk if they do not receive supplementation of some kind.

theborrower Tue 05-Aug-14 13:02:25

It's statistics, isn't it? EBF babies may be more likely to have less allergies, colds etc, but doesn't mean that they won't get allergies, just as FF babies may be more likely to have allergies etc but it doesn't mean they will. Anecdotally of the EBF babies I've known, 2 have severe allergies and 1 was ill with bronchiolitis, while my mixed fed (mainly FF) DD1 is allergy free and hasn't had any serious illnesses.

Breast is still better though, and I say that as a failed BFer/now FFer. I just don't best myself up about it anymore. I also view it as 'every drop counts'.

With regards to germs at groups etc, they're inevitable. I see it as building immunity.

tiktok Tue 05-Aug-14 13:54:08

Bettertobehealthy you are making huge assumptions there. OP's baby is five months old (or was....this is an old thread) anyway. Don't scaremonger about vitamin D, please smile

gamerchick Tue 05-Aug-14 13:57:59

Breastbone doesn't stop them getting colds.. its not a force field grin

They do pass their germs onto you and you help them by making antibodies, passing them on to help fight it though.

gamerchick Tue 05-Aug-14 13:58:21


ChangeIsNear Tue 05-Aug-14 14:50:16

I know what you mean, DS was like this, constantly had a runny nose and sneezing. I eventually discovered it was due to his allergies, and when we went on an allergy free diet, it all went away thankfully! smile

ChangeIsNear Tue 05-Aug-14 14:51:36

And I would second the advice about vitamin D drops

Bettertobehealthy Thu 07-Aug-14 18:36:16

tiktok - certainly didn't want to scaremonger , but I thought it important to point out the possibility of Vitamin D deficiency, not only for the initial poster , but any subsequent readers of this thread.

I'm not quite sure about what huge assumptions I have made, the facts I stated about recommended Vitamin D supplementation by both the GB and USA gov's are exactly as I stated. The ONLY reason they would put out those recommendations is if the likelyhood of deficiency was high.

Using Vit D drops for baby ( if exclusively breast fed ) is very important. Follow gov guidlines. The USA are ahead of us in that respect, they supplement from birth. There is extremely good scientiific evidence for that , just as there is for folate for pregnant mums, to prevent spina biffida i.e. neural tube defects.

There is an absolute plethora of scientific evidence concerning the beneficial impact Vitamin D has on growing babies, in the womb and throughout life. Lack of this essential Vitamin is entirely preventable, and the cost is absolutely trivial. Much of the impediment to following the published guidlines is knowledge. I am simply trying to spread that knowledge.

The Goverment program " Healthy Start" gives free Vitamins , including D , to qualifying families. The take up is abysmal. IF you are on benefits , check it out .
Free milk, fruit and vegetables as well !! It must be worth having a look.

hope this helps

BTBhealthy .

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