Average Reading Time: 2 minutes and 33 seconds
In a study of 500 new mothers, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that when babies are fed exclusively at the breast for a month compared to babies fed pumped breast milk, the risk of ear infections for the child were reduced by 15 percent. When the babies were fed only from the breast directly for 6 months, the risk of ear infection was reduced by a whopping 115 percent. (1)
Babies were 30 percent less likely to get diarrhea when nursed either directly from the breast or from pumped breast milk. So, why such a difference in ear infection risk?
Researchers were not sure why nursing at the breast was so much more beneficial than from a bottle. They think it might be the negative pressure that a bottle creates. Maybe so, but according to Ayurveda, nursing is a powerful medicine where the baby is not only fed nutritionally, but emotionally and microbiologically as well. Plastic bottles just can’t replicate the subtle and profound benefits of nursing.
I realize many of us were not nursed – myself included – thanks to the 1950s pediatric guru, Dr. Spock. The good news is that even though there is a microbiological transfer from mother to baby during nursing, they have not been able to find any long-term health-related issues.
However, when we compare a plastic nipple to the real thing, skin-to-skin nursing, there is a well-documented difference. Here is a quote from a 2009 report on nursing from the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Oxytocin starts working when a mother expects a feed as well as when the baby is suckling. The reflex becomes conditioned to the mother’s sensations and feelings, such as touching, smelling or seeing her baby, or hearing her baby cry, or thinking lovingly about him or her. If a mother is in severe pain or emotionally upset, the oxytocin reflex may become inhibited, and her milk may suddenly stop flowing well. If she receives support, is helped to feel comfortable and lets the baby continue to breastfeed, the milk will flow again. (2)
It is important to understand the oxytocin reflex, because it explains why the mother and baby should be kept together and why they should have skin-to-skin contact.”
Oxytocin is a bonding hormone that is directed produced from a loving touch; a bonding experience transferred between two people. Oxytocin production is linked to better health, longevity and stronger immunity. (3) The answer to this massive immunity difference just might be the power of love. It seems it may be about 115 percent more powerful to love your baby through momma’s nipple than with a plastic one.
According to the WHO Report, here are some of the signs a mother might experience that tells the mother she is triggering the oxytocin-producing reflex:
- a tingling sensation in the breast before or during a feed
- milk flowing from her breasts when she thinks of the baby or hears him crying
- milk flowing from the other breast when the baby is suckling
- milk flowing from the breast in streams if suckling is interrupted
- slow deep sucks and swallowing by the baby, which show that milk is flowing into his mouth
- uterine discomfort or a flow of blood from the uterus
- thirst during a feed
If one or more of these signs are present, the reflex is working. However, if they are not present, it does not mean that the reflex is inactive. The signs may not be obvious, and the mother may not be aware of them. (2)
Interestingly, in this study, when babies were mostly fed from the breast and less from a bottle for a month, there was only a 4 percent decrease in ear infection risk, and a 17 percent lower risk after six months. (1)