The question being: “I thought breastfed babies weren’t supposed to get sick! What’s up with that? Along with this question I could also add the statement: “My babies were formula fed and never got sick!”
There are several answers to this but to answer them we have to understand something about statistics on which we are all saying that breastfed babies don’t get sick as easily as formula fed ones. WHO says that if there were a moderate increase in breastfeeding throughout the world, morbidity rates for infants would decrease significantly. Likewise, baby friendly hospitals report that they are spending less and less money on treating infant illnesses. So the quick answer is that regardless of what your baby is doing. . .breast fed babies in general are healthier.
It’s that ‘in general’ part that gets us though. “In general” doesn’t mean that if you compare your breastfed baby to your neighbor’s formula fed baby, yours will always be healthier. It means that out of thousands of breastfed babies and thousands of formula fed babies, breastfed babies tend to be healthier with less illness.
Composition of Breastmilk
Breastmilk has been analyzed substantially and scientists often refer to it as a living tissue. It changes in composition based on your baby’s needs. So for example, a mother who has birthed a preemie has breast milk that is higher in fats and proteins that specifically help the baby gain weight, than does a mom with a full term infant. Another example would be a mom who is sick with strep will produce antibodies in her breast milk to protect her baby from strep. In addition, colostrums is known to boost the immune system significantlyThis is another reason why experts say that feeding your baby breast milk will help prevent illness.
Breastfeeding is not the whole story. . .
The other thing to keep in mind is that while breast milk certainly contains antibodies–you can’t say that breastfed babies are healthy and formula fed ones are sick. This just isn’t true. There are other factors that influence how often a child gets sick such as smoking in the house, participation in day care, how often the baby is handled by people who haven’t washed their hands first, genes, gestational age at birth and everything else in between. If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, even if your baby is still getting sick more often than you’d like, you can be assured that you are still providing great nutrition and antibodies. If you’ve chosen to formula feed, you can be assured that your child is most definitely NOT destined to be sick all the time.