Stacy Kennedy, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N.
Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital

Many of us are feeling the financial strain of an economic recession. If you are pregnant or have a baby, one simple change to your grocery list can save you over $3000 per year. Besides saving you money, this change can help your baby to develop maximum intelligence, eyesight, and protection from disease. To reap these benefits and more all you need to do is give your baby human milk instead of synthetic milk.

One of the top manufacturers of infant formula boasts that it has been developing its products for over 70 years. Human milk has been in development for 65 million years, since the Cenozoic Age, which saw the rapid evolution of mammals. So the oldest formula companies have been doing research and development only for .0001 percent of the time our biology has been perfecting a product all females have in their possession.

Best Baby Food Around
In the last few decades, scientists have learned that each mother produces breast milk that is individually designed to meet the needs of her particular baby. Mom's milk changes day-to-day and even feeding-to-feeding to perfectly match her baby's nutritional needs at that exact moment. No laboratory-producedformula can claim to do this.

We also have learned that the longer a child is breast-fed, the better he or she will do in school and the higher the child will score on IQ and other standardized tests compared to children who are formula-fed. The exact reason for this is not known, but most scientists feel it is because there are fatty acids and other nutrients in breast milk that are essential to brain development early in life. Two of these fats, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid), are now incorporated into many infant formulas produced in the United States. Breast-feeding moms can get DHA from eating fatty fish or enriched eggs.

Breast-feeding also can help to ensure that your child won't overeat, which can put him or her at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer later in life. Your baby's immune system also will grow into a powerful arsenal, equipped to protect him or her from a lifetime of exposure to infections and disease. The first human milk that a woman produces, colostrum, is jam-packed with antibodies and key protective nutrients.

Good For Baby, Good For Mom
Breast-feeding also can help Mom lose weight faster after giving birth, although some women don't return to their pre-pregnancy weight until after they stop breast-feeding.

A more rapid return to "normal" can happen for several reasons.

  • Nursing your baby releases hormones and chemical messengers that help return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size.
  • Breast-feeding mothers burn 200 to 300 calories of stored fat each day to provide enough energy to breast-feed. This calorie burn typically lasts for the first three months.
  • Most nursing moms want to give their children the best nutrition possible. Eating a healthy diet yourself is the most effective way to do this. By adopting healthy eating habits (and adding physical activity), you can expect to return to and maintain a healthy weight.

Be sure to get enough nutrients by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein. It is important that you eat enough calcium while breast-feeding - 1,000 milligrams per day for women over 18 years old. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, fortified cereals, and fortified OJ. You also should take a multivitamin and drink eight to 12 cups of fluid every day.

Be careful about trying to lose too much weight too fast -- one pound per week is best. Rapid weight loss can impact your body's ability to produce breast milk and can zap the energy you need to take care of your baby and yourself.

Breast-Feeding Basics
While breast-feeding is "natural," it isn't always easy. If you are having problems or want some extra help, contact a lactation specialist.

Some mothers wonder how long a breast-feeding session should be. Your baby will know when enough is enough. Let your baby listen and respond to his/her hard-wired, internal hunger and fullness cues. For a healthy, full-term baby, there is no time limit given for a feeding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends feeding babies only breast milk for the first six months of life and continuing to breast-feed for the first year when possible. This can be done by feeding at the breast or by pumping your breast milk into bottles so another parent or care giver can feed the baby while you are away. Once your baby can sit up on his or her own, you can begin to introduce solid foods along with breast milk (infant rice cereal should be the first food your baby tries). The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding your baby for his or her first two years of life.

More Information

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics -
  • La Leche League International - toll-free in the US (847) 519-7730
  • Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program -
    "The Complete Book of Breastfeeding", 3rd edition, by Marvin S. Eiger, M.D. & Sally Wendkos
  • "The Nursing Mother's Problem Solver", from the Children's Hospital of Denver, by Claire Martin with Nancy Funnemark Krebs, M.D., M.S., R.D., Editor
  • "Keys to Breastfeeding", by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., I.B.C.LC
Author's Bio: 

For close to 175 years, Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been the most trusted name in women’s health. Our women health center has been the site for important advances in women’s health. Our team works to improve the health of women and transform their care. For more information about BWH, please visit