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Vegetarian Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Part Three: Breastmilk, Nature's Perfect Baby Food

Pt 1: Happy Healthy Veg Pregnancy       Pt 2: Nutritious Vegetarian Foods

Breast Fed is Best: At Savvy Vegetarian we believe in eating the best food possible. Scientists, doctors, and others concerned with infant nutrition agree that breast milk is the best food for babies. Even formula makers say it, although usually in very small print. Why is breastfeeding best, and just how far from best is formula feeding?

Formula provides adequate nutrition for an infant, meaning the infant won't suffer from malnutrition. That's all it does. Breastmilk does that and much more. Breastfeeding benefits children, mothers, the environment and society. Formula feeding not only does not benefit these groups, it can actually harm them.

Breastmilk is species specific. It has evolved along with humans to perfectly meet the nutritional needs of human babies. It does not contain any allergens like formula does. And it comes from the breast sterile.

Formula fed babies are at high risk for exposure to bacterial contamination. In countries where sanitation is very poor, breastfeeding can be the difference between life and death for a small child. And unlike formula, breast milk is free.

People who were breastfed as babies have higher IQs, lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and cancer, and less illness while breastfeeding since their mother's antibodies are passed on through her milk.

In addition to missing out on the immunological benefits of breast milk, formula fed infants are at higher risk for SIDS, and developing chronic health problems like allergies, obesity, and diabetes later on. These are just some of the benefits of breastfeeding for infants versus the downside of formula. And it doesn't stop with infants.

Mothers who breastfeed are at lower risk for certain types of cancer, recover from pregnancy and birth faster, and miss less work because of infant illness. They don't have to worry about keeping formula sterile or lug around multiple bottles every time they leave the house. And again, breast milk is free!

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Society benefits from breastfeeding because we don't have to bear the long-term costs of formula feeding on our families and nation in terms of health costs, and lost productivity and income due to illness.

The environment benefits because breastfeeding does not generate any waste. There are no polluting factories producing it, no polluting transportation needed to distribute it and no containers to end up in our landfills.

The World Health Organization (WHO) puts formula feeding far down on its list of infant feeding methods which includes mothers milk from her breast or a bottle, and another woman's breast milk from the breast or a bottle.Formula is a lifesaver for infants whose mothers have a serious illness like HIV or tuberculosis that can be transmitted through breast milk. But in most cases it is not even the second best choice.

If we lived in an ideal world, formula would be the last option to consider when deciding how to feed your baby. Unfortunately we live in a society that can make it quite difficult to even start breastfeeding, much less continue it for at least 12 months as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends. Read the AAP's breastfeeding policy

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Formula advertising often begins in your doctor's office at your first prenatal visit where you are signed up to receive free formula samples. Formula companies donate large amounts of money to hospitals and give gifts to medical personnel and new mothers. No wonder it is so easy to turn to formula.

Support groups: Most women have no knowledgeable support group of women who have breastfed to help them through the difficulties commonly encountered when learning to breastfeed. Frequently they must also deal with active opposition from family members who are uneducated and uncomfortable about breastfeeding.

Obstacles to breastfeeding: Those women who do successfully start breastfeeding often then encounter obstacles outside the home that hinder continued breastfeeding.

If a woman returns to work by choice or necessity, she may find that management and coworkers do not easily accept the need for breaks to pump milk for her infant. (What about all those workers who take cigarette or gossip breaks though?)

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Without a really good breast pump she may have trouble pumping enough milk for her baby. Hint: buy a hospital quality pump not made by a formula maker. Medala is a good one.

A woman who plans to breastfeed needs a lot of determination, a good support group, a willingness to educate those open minded enough to listen, and the ability to turn a deaf ear to the willfully ignorant.

If you want to breastfeed, learn all you can about breastfeeding before you have your baby. And establish a good support group. Attending La Leche League meetings during and after your pregnancy can provide you with a great source of practical knowledge and support.

Sarah Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

Pt 1: Happy Healthy Veg Pregnancy Pt 2: Nutritrious Vegetarian Foods

Sources For This Article:

National Academy of Sciences. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th edition, 1989.

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Mangels, Reed, Ph.D., R.D. The Vegan Diet During Pregnancy and Lactation, Vegetarian Resource Group

American Academy of pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk (RE9729). AAP

The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet. Melina, Davis, Harrison

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