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Please tell me exactly why breastmilk is so amazing..

(168 Posts)
Sheeta Fri 31-Jul-09 15:43:38

Was talking about this with a friend the other day, we know that BM is best for baby etc, but it struck me that I don't know exactly WHY..

I know it boosts the immune system, but don't understand how. I know it can provide everything your baby needs, but don't understand exactly.

I know I sound like a bit of a muppet here, but can someone please just give me the facts about the benefits of BFing?

StealthPolarBear Fri 31-Jul-09 15:52:09

made on demand and to your child's requirements
Technically there aren't any benefits of breastfeeding, just risks and downsides of not breasfeeding
more info

Sheeta Fri 31-Jul-09 15:56:35

Thanks. Don't think I worded my OP very well. I meant that I want to know HOW it protects against things like ear infections and eczema.

Also interested in how bad diet can affect nutritional benefits of BFing.

Catilla Fri 31-Jul-09 16:05:09

I think it passes immunity to bugs from mother to baby. So if the mother has immunity (eg. via previous infection or prolonged exposure) they are passed across through breastmilk.

StealthPolarBear Fri 31-Jul-09 16:06:09

oh I see, sorry
erm....magic beans?
not sure, and don't think it's fully understood, but hopefully there will someone along who at least knows more than me!

pseudoname Fri 31-Jul-09 16:13:30

"I know it boosts the immune system, but don't understand how."

A baby is born with an immature immune system. So it cannot fight off, for example' a viral infection (cold / flu) as effectively as an adult can. The saliva of a baby with an infection contains the virus which is picked up by the mother when the baby feeds and the mother's immune system starts to make antibodies to fight off this virus. These antibodies are transmitted to the baby in her breastmilk.

Because a baby who is breastfed is able to fight this virus more effectively than a baby who is not breastfed, then opportunistic bacteria which may be present in the throat, ear, nose, chest during this viral infection cannot then take advantage and set off a bacterial infection. So a bf baby is also less likely to develop a bacterial infection during / after a viral one.

pooter Fri 31-Jul-09 16:26:41

ive read that when a baby drinks formula, the microvilli (little extensions of the cell that increase tthe surface area of the small intestine) actually die away - and this leaves the gut open to larger particles than a baby is meant to have in the bloodstream. As i understand it, this can let potential allergens through into the bloodstream that woudl not be able to get through if a baby was breastfed.

Also the action of suckling works the muscles of the face in such a way to open the eustacian tubes which can prevent ear infections.

erm, what else...BM contains antibodies made by the mother to any bacteria/virus she has come into contact with. These are likely to be the exact same pathogens that the baby has been exposed to, so the baby gets a head start on fighting them off while its own immune system starts to produce its own antibodies.

BM contains stem cells, which atm are teh holy grail of biologists as they have the capability to turn into any kind of cell the body needs - although we dont understand the mechanism by which they do this, and dont know if the breastfed baby benefits from this, but its likely it would in some way - we just dont know how.

i did a bit of trawling for some proper stats about how bf actually benefits babies in the 'developed' world, and it was really interesting, will try and dig them out for you.

pooter Fri 31-Jul-09 16:29:15

here you go...stats

hanaflower Fri 31-Jul-09 16:31:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

peppapighastakenovermylife Sat 01-Aug-09 08:37:35

Erm...I should probably know this one. Some reasons I can think of...

For a start breastmilk has over 300 ingredients whereas formula milk only has about 40. Most of the things they cant replicate are to do with immune system.

Antibodies transferred from the mum and it also has live properties which help with immune function.

White blood cells: Immunity

Proteins : Cell growth and renewal

Nucleotides: Encourage growth of friendly bacteria and help protein be digested

Essential fatty acids: growth, growth, functioning and development of brain and nervous system

Lactose: helps produce and establish the Lactobacillus bifidus flora in the babies bowel – this is a healthy bacteria which helps stop harmful bacteria forming.

It coats the bowel and prevents/reduces anything bad “getting through” to the babies system. Just giving one bottle of formula can reduce this effectiveness.

The bifidus factor – encourages healthy organisms to grow in the gut

Anti – staphylocaal factor and hydrogen peroxide – kill bacteria such as e coli

IgA: lines the gut and respiratory system. Transfers immunity to the baby. Protects against many nasty bugs such as e coli, polio and flu

Immunoproteins: Provide protection

Rotovirus: Helps stop germs multiplying

Leukocytes: Help destroy bacteria/ viruses which enter

Lactoferrin: Helps with iron absorbtion and destroying viruses

The minerals in it (and proteins) are suited to the levels needed by humans not cows - cows have a completely different growth pattern to humans

Then you have reduced risk of gastroenteritis because there is less risk of introducing bacteria etc - no bottles, manufactured milk etc

Breast feeding is thought to reduce ear infections through the action - babies dont suck but use muscles in tongue, jaw etc which clears the ear in some way

Virtually everything is absorbed from it - and very easily - less waste than formula so easie on digestion. It is gentler on the stomach.

If I think of anythign else I will be back grin

Jojay Sat 01-Aug-09 08:44:52

Marking my place - I want to watch this one. smile

pooter Sat 01-Aug-09 15:13:11

just thought of another

its meant to help the individual to learn how to regulate their own food intake - so theoretically a baby that has been fed on demand is less likely to become obese as an adult or have other food issues, as it has always eaten until it is full then stopped of its own accord.

mears Sat 01-Aug-09 15:17:16

100 reasons to breastfeed

peppapighastakenovermylife Sat 01-Aug-09 18:30:08

Pooter that is the basis of my phd grin

pooter Sat 01-Aug-09 18:47:32

wow peppa how interesting! i bet it was difficult to standardise for all the different lengths of bf, and whether they were on demand or not. from what ive read you can produce any amount of stats supporting BF and people still say 'oh its just about what class the people are' angry

peppapighastakenovermylife Sat 01-Aug-09 21:27:44

Oh yes, all controlled for lol. I was also a good girl and didnt just count someone as breastfeeding if they did so for one feed at birth.

The demand element was really the main basis...it compared feeding styles across breastfeeding duration. I am hoping to have some papers out soon smile.

Sheeta Mon 03-Aug-09 13:12:18

wow, thank you all. this is amazing stuff.

Exactly the kind of actual scientific information I was after. everybody has heard that breast is best, but you never hear about the research and the actual reasons behind this statement.

"A baby is born with an immature immune system. So it cannot fight off, for example' a viral infection (cold / flu) as effectively as an adult can. The saliva of a baby with an infection contains the virus which is picked up by the mother when the baby feeds and the mother's immune system starts to make antibodies to fight off this virus. These antibodies are transmitted to the baby in her breastmilk. "

This is incredible.

pseudoname Mon 03-Aug-09 13:41:57

WRT to the quote in your last post, OP, because the baby gets the antibodies through BM it means that a cold or flu in a breastfed baby is typically shorter and less severe than in a FF baby.

D&V - what I find incredible: BM contains iron which is by far more absorb-able than the iron in Formula. What this means in real terms is that because so much iron in BM is absorbed by the baby there is little left in the gut for infectious bacteria to use in order to multiply and cause illness. In addition, the chemical structure of the iron molecule itself (I believe)makes it difficult for the bacteria to latch on to it in order to multiply.

Of course this is on top of the fact that the white blood cells present in breastmilk kill pathogens in the gut in the first place. Miracle stuff!

terramum Mon 03-Aug-09 13:46:47

BM isn't amazing - it's biologically normal. BM doesn't prevent or help anything. It's not using it that causes or increases problems.

misscreosote Mon 03-Aug-09 13:54:04

This is fascinating. Yes, BM is normal etc etc terramum, but isn't it totally amazing how it works (normally) to facilitate optimum (normal) health? Like conceiving and growing a baby is 'normal' but when you look at what goes on its totally mind blowing!

jimbobsmummy Mon 03-Aug-09 13:55:30

^Rotovirus: Helps stop germs multiplying'^

The rest if what you said is interesting, but this one is wrong.

Rotovirus is actually a virus that causes a sometimes nasty gastroenteritis - this is not something you want!

NoHotAshes Mon 03-Aug-09 13:56:19

Something can be biologically normal and still be amazing and mind-blowing. Personally I think much of the natural world falls into the category of awe-inspiring.

JetLi Mon 03-Aug-09 14:13:13

I read that BF-ing Mums should especially kiss their babies a lot - Mum's immune system is much better and by kissing baby Mum picks up their germs, to which she creates antibodies and these are then passed back to baby via the breastmilk and helps them fight them off.

Sheeta Mon 03-Aug-09 14:42:29

yikes, yes.. have just wiki'd rotavirus

Schulte Mon 03-Aug-09 15:01:15

Interesting thread. Apart from helping with immunity - how about the bonding factor? If I was a baby I'd much rather suck on my mum's boob than on a plastic teat. It must make them feel safer to be that close to mummy on demand, therefore helping their mental development? Just speculating here of course grin

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