Why is Human Milk a Mom-Made Wonder Food?
Because its packed with hundreds of immune-boosting, disease-fighting, growth-promoting, digestion-easing ingredients that cannot be reproduced in a lab. Human milk is species specific to quote breastfeeding expert, Dr. Ruth Lawrence*, just as all milk from every mammal is uniquely designed for that species. In short, it’s a mom-made wonder food, delivering human babies the best foundation for their health. It’s why the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the American Academy of Pediatrics and virtually every major health organization in the world, recommend donor human milk as the next best choice for babies. You might be surprised to learn that the correct rank for infant feeding is: 1) direct breastfeeding; 2) the mother’s pumped or expressed milk in a bottle; 3) another mother’s pasteurized, screened, donated human milk, and 4) artificial milk feeds. Note that commercial formula is the 4th choice in line after breastfeeding.
All of this goes double in the case of preemies and medically compromised newborns for whom human milk is literally a life-line. Even babies who are born just a few weeks early — 35-38 weeks – also known as Late Preterm Infants are vulnerable to significant complications and breastfeeding issues.
Here’s a smattering of what makes human milk a Miracle Milk.
Human milk is a living fluid, meaning it is more readily available to the baby for absorption and digestion, even when pasteurized. By living fluid we mean that it is practically human tissue, like an organ that the baby is born without and needs from it’s mother. Formula is dead and artificial; even though it contains basic nutrients for survival, it does not complete and maximize the potential of the body. In fact, very few of the ingredients added to formula are completely usable by the infant, including DHA and iron. Compare it to human milk is chock full of essential fatty acids. You know those fish oil pills we are all pounding down? Mother’s Milk loaded with them. It also contains the right level of iron for a human baby, again, in a form the baby can assimilate easily. It contains antibodies to common pathogens the mother is exposed to on a daily basis– it’s a daily vaccine! It contains constantly changing proportions of fat, proteins, and carbohydrates to accommodate the nutritional needs of babies at different times of the day and at different ages/stages . . . night-time milk contains sleep inducers! It changes flavors according the food consumed by the mother, exposing a baby’s palate early to a wide variety of foods, so they’ll like their veggies when they’re bigger!
And just in case you weren’t “wowed” yet, human milk we now know contains stem cells, perhaps the only ethical source of harvesting we’ve got, and a new observational study suggests that donor human milk may even be able to be used as Gene Therapy to reverse inherited disease!
IS THAT NOT SOME POWERFUL STUFF? For more amazing but lesser-known facts about your mom-made-wonder-food click here.
How Do You Get It?
Obviously, breastfeeding is the way to go, but if you can not or will not be breastfeeding, or can’t pump and feed your milk to your baby, don’t feel guilty! So many moms are being booby-trapped out of meeting their personal breastfeeding goals, and for various reasons, breastfeeding is simply not an option for some mothers. No judgment! Instead, we encourage you to look into obtaining donated, screened, pasteurized human milk. Donor milk can be obtained through a prescription from your physician, usually a neonatologist or pediatrician. Some insurance companies are starting to cover the cost of donor milk (while the milk is donated, the processing cost still needs to be paid). As long as there is a prescription, donor milk can be provided for as long as it is needed. For more information on which hospitals have donor milk and who pays for it, see our post in conjunction with 2010 Pregnancy Awareness Month.
Right now, there are only a few human milk banks, but thanks to increasing demand, more are being established. Best for Babes envisions a world where milk banks in the U.S. (as of August 2009 there are 11); are as ubiquitous as blood banks (2,200?), so that all babies needing it, except those with galactosemia, can receive donated human milk. (Galactosemia is an extremely rare condition affecting only 66 babies of 4 million born annually, or 0.00165% of all births.) Until more people demand more human milk banks, and drive the change to make that happen, many mothers are forced to rely on formula.
*Lawrence, R. and Lawrence, R. Breastfeeding; A Guide for the Medical Professional. St. Louis: Mosby. 2005. For information on the screening & donation process of donor milk, please see www.hmbana.org.
© Sept. 23, 2012