Answers from the Doctor - Why Breastfeeding is Best for Babies

I'm Dr. Richard Gudvangen, I'm one of the OB-GYN doctors here at the Brookings Health System Hospital. I've been here between 12 and 13 years, and been practicing OB/GYN for approximately 25 years. And in that time I delivered about 2,500 to 3,000 babies.

Why Should Mothers Breastfeed?

Well in one word, it's perfect for newborns and has everything. Everything is correct. Everything has the right temperature, the right concentration, the right amount of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, you name it. Everything is perfect.

How Does Breast Milk Benefit Babies? Lactobacillus

In your first nursing, you pick up the needed bacteria that your body needs for the rest of your life, and the most important of those are lactobacillus. Lacto, because it helps you digest lactose. It's the most important bacteria out of all the 20, 30 types that we're supposed to have. It regulates the rest and like I said as I mentioned, it helps you digest lactose.

How Does Breast Milk Benefit Babies? Passive Immunity

The other important issue is the passive immunity mom gives you with breastfeeding. When you're born, your immune system is immature, has never seen any kind of diseases, and everything your mom has been vaccinated for, everything your mom has been infected with throughout her life, she produces antibodies to those, that crosses the breast milk. That's the baby's only protection for up to the first two years of their life, is mom's passive immunity, and that she gives them. And that's why in the United States, for many years, we have had the sickest babies in the world, it's because we took away that passive immunity by removing breast-feeding from our world.

How Does Breast Milk Benefit Babies? Cholesterol

There's two times in a woman's life where her cholesterol is elevated, pregnancy, and when she's lactating, and that's on purpose. Cholesterol goes into brain development, and the right amount is there with breast milk, but in formulas, no. The formula companies have jumped all over that and tried to add some stuff. But they add a fatty acid here and there, and that's it. And so, so far, they haven't come anywhere near being able to replace the cholesterol that mom produces.

Does Breastfeeding Make Children Smarter?

Traditionally, moms that breastfed we're more likely to be educated, motivated, and so there was speculation that these moms tutoring their kids more, stuff like that, paid more attention. But years ago, when it was only affluent moms that fed formula, it wasn't so true. It wasn't those affluent moms that had smart kids, it was the people that couldn't afford the formula. So there has to be some connection comes down to . . . again, everything is set up correctly, high levels of cholesterol and fatty acids and stuff, which go into brain development. And so kids that are breastfed, just basically do better in school. We see that over, and over, and over.

What Possible Problems Come From the Use of Formula? Immune System & Allergies

Babies, if they get formula, it's not normal if you will, and so the proteins, amino acids, and all that sort of thing may be totally different from what they get from mom. And again their immune system doesn't work right away, and so they see all these things as foreign, and they start reacting to them. They can develop asthma. They can develop allergies to all kinds of other compounds. Just kinda on and on and on.

What Possible Problems Come From the Use of Formula? Obesity

Formula makes fat babies, and part of that is because, there is actually more calories than needed in formula, and babies will drink more from a bottle, whether it's breast milk or whether it's formula, than what they need, and when they're breastfed, they only eat what they need. So if you have a fat breastfed baby, that's okay, fat formula-fed baby, not good. Those babies have problems later, diabetes, as we already talked about all the allergy stuff, food allergies.

Top Reasons to Breastfeed

One, babies are pure and simple healthier. Two, moms are healthier. Three, cheaper. And four, make your kids smarter. Five, decreases your chances of, mom's chances of diseases herself later in life.

Why Brookings Health System?

It's a good place to have your baby because we're here in town and you have a very high likelihood that your doctor will be around, not always, we need a break once in a while but most of the time we're here. We have all the amenities, we have everything you need, we can take care of almost every obstetrical issue, and so that should not be of concern. We have a great staff. And one of the reasons I ended up coming here, was because they had all the amenities. I was impressed that we had everything we needed here, and I came from a much larger community to come here, there are numerous hospitals, all high-tech stuff. I came here and it’s like, "Wow, almost everything is here."