Just like mother’s milk, but not quite the same

10 Mar 2011 | Lance Cpl. Victor Barrera

Every year, countless ads for baby formula spring up, each one claiming to be “mother approved” or “closer to breast milk than ever before”. However no matter how close it is to a mother’s milk, it will not have the same benefits.

The Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s lactation consultants aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune know these facts to be true and encourage mothers and expecting parents to breast-feed instead of nursing their newborn with formula.

“We’re here to give parents the facts and our advice. We won’t twist their arm until they decide to breast-feed and will support them in whatever they choose,” said Linda Aycock, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with the Naval Hospital. “A mother’s breast milk is perfectly designed for her child and it’s what we recommend mothers to feed their newborns.”

The first feeding is rich in protein and antibodies that provide passive immunity to the baby, it also helps the newborn's digestive system to grow and function properly, said Aycock. Every illness that the mother’s body has experienced she would have developed natural antibodies and those antibodies can be passed on from mother to child through breast-feeding.

The milk is also more digestible, for every one child that gets Necrotizing Enterocolitis, a gastrointestinal disease, from breast-feeding as many as six get it from baby formula.

Children who are born prematurely are more likely to be diagnosed with NEC, which is why doctors recommend breast milk to those mothers. A mother’s breast milk will have the right chemicals and nutrients for the baby’s time frame, whereas formula is mass produced.

Other benefits for the child include less susceptibility to ear and respiratory infection, obesity, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome.

Both Aycock and Linda Bubeck work with expecting mothers, months before they are due in hopes that by the time they give birth, the mothers have made up their mind on how they will feed their newborn. Already they are seeing results, 85 percent of mothers decided to breast-feed in 2009, 2010 that number rose to 86 percent.

Breast-feeding is also beneficial to mothers, it helps with weight loss and protects against a variety of diseases.

“The female body is designed to produce breast milk for a newborn,” said Bubeck. “Breast-feeding can help mothers later on in life with bone density and breast cancer.”

From a financial standpoint, the money saved in one year from breast-feeding alone averages out to $1,900. As food prices go up so will the price of baby formula.

Mothers who are interested in breast-feeding, are eligible for free advice from the lactation consultants. On average, a single visit to a certified lactation consultant out in town can range anywhere from $75 to $100.

To educate mothers, NHCL lactation specialists hold meetings every first and third Tuesday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and also the second and fourth Tuesdays from 6 to 8 in the evening so that fathers may attend. Pumping classes are also offered and mothers are given phone numbers of the office and Aycock in case any help is needed.