Is breast best or is the bottle better?

By admin
02 August 2013

The first week of this month (1 to 7 August) is World Breastfeeding Week.

While many mothers have opted to stay true to the age-old phrase “breast is best” by offering their offspring the milk provided by their bodies, some have opted to go for formula feeding.

Compared to the rest of the world, South Africa has one of the lowest exclusive breast-feeding rates: only eight per cent of mothers breast-feed exclusively for the recommended six months, compared to neighbouring Swaziland at 44 per cent.

There are numerous reasons for the low rate of exclusive breast-feeding. These include a lack of education about its benefits, a lack of support in the workplace and a misconception that breast-feeding could result in mother-to-child HIV transmission. Unfortunately, there’s also the misapprehension many are still under that breast milk is inadequate.

While the benefits of breast-feeding are numerous for a newborn from a health perspective, while simultaneously being extremely advantageous to your wallet, choosing the breast over the bottle is something that remains a challenge that needs to be overcome in SA.

Here are the benefits to both options, whichever you choose.

Benefits of breast-feeding:

-       It’s free.

-       It’s readily available.

-       It’s easily digestible.

-       It contains active infection-fighting white blood cells and natural chemicals that offer increased protection against infections in the first months of your baby’s life (when infection can be the most serious).

-       It contains the perfect proportion of nutrients your baby needs (including protein, carbohydrates, fat and calcium).

However, should you decide not to breast-feed, you needn’t worry as bottle-feeding has come a long way in its ability to provide great benefits for your little one.

Benefits of bottle-feeding:

-       Infant formulas have become better at matching the ingredients and proportions of vitamins and nutrients in breast milk.

-       The vast majority of infants won't get a serious infection in their first months, whether breast- or bottle-fed.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School in the US have found breast-feeding isn’t just good for the tot, but it’s also good for the mother’s heart. After studying 96 000 women who’d given birth between 1986 and 2002, researchers found mothers who’d breast-fed were 19 per cent less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who hadn’t.

A possible reason is that breast-feeding assists the mother’s body in returning itself to “normal” mode, as pregnant women store more fat and breast-feeding helps the body get rid of it.

- Faiza Mallick

Sources:, Health-e News Services, YOU magazine health section,

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