Breastfeeding 101


Think: Chronic Diseases. Breast cancer. Obesity. Diabetes.

Now think about their cures: Medication. Exercise. Surgery. Breastfeeding.

Wait, breastfeeding you say? What’s the relationship between these chronic diseases and breastfeeding? Is breastfeeding worth it?

Welcome to Breastfeeding 101

Inspired by the World Breastfeeding Week every first week of August, GetDoc is here to host a crash course on the benefits of breastfeeding.


  • Introduction

  • Breastmilk or formula?

  • The good and bad of breastmilk

  • What to eat


Breastfeeding Is the natural way of providing nutrients which infants need for healthy growth and development. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to 6 months of age, and complimentary breastfeeding while introducing food to infants up to 2 years and beyond. Breast milk is produced when a suckling stimulus is produced by the baby, sending signals to the mother’s brain, where the chemical oxytocin is released. Oxytocin then stimulates the mammary glands in the breasts to produce milk. 

Breast milk or formula?

Breastmilk consists of >200 constituents, and the count still increases with more advanced analysis techniques! This diverse nutrient profile can’t be replicated in infant formulas. Infant formulas may have come a long way, with improved nutrient profiles like added DHA and easier-to-digest-proteins, but still unable to provide the optimal amount and ratio of nutrients for a newborn.

  • Bacteriologically safe and always fresh! It contains a variety of anti-infectious agents and antibodies that provide direct protection against viruses and improved immune response. Most of these immune factors like antibodies and B-12 binding proteins are not found in infant formulas and are even lower concentrations in cow’s milk.

  • Growth factors in human breast milk like Cortisol, Insulin and Thyroxine help mature the gut and increase cell growth.

  • Breastmilk also protects the child against milk allergies. IgA (Immunoglobulin A) aids in blocking whole food proteins from being absorbed by binding to them. These whole food proteins cause allergies by leaking through the gut as infants have immature GI tracts, allowing them to pass through easily.

  • Better mineral bioavailability. High lactose content of breastmilk aids absorption of minerals by forming soluble chelates (compound) with minerals

  • Better balance of essential amino acids

  • Immune factors

The Good and the Bad of Breastfeeding:

The Good:

  • Always safe and sterile. Important in areas where clean water is not available.

  • Optimal nutritional profile for a healthy newborn

  • Feeling of closeness between mother and child

  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes for mother and child

  • Reduced risk of childhood obesity

  • Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers

  • Natural form of contraception: ovulation resumes later when breastfeeding occurs

  • Aids in post-pregnancy weight-loss

    • Energy requirements of lactation are 0.67kcal/g of breastmilk. Mothers feeding Infants 0-6 months would burn an extra 500 calories per day!


The Bad:

  • Premature infants will not get sufficient nutrition from breastmilk alone. They require fortified breastmilk.

  • Drug intake.

    • Antibiotics can cause allergic reactions, sleepiness, vomiting and refusal to eat

    • Oral contraceptives can suppress lactation

    • Caffeine: 1-2 cups/day can cause restlessness, irritability and sleeplessness in infantCoffee beans

    • Smoking decreases milk volume

    • Hot spices and garlic can cause distress in infants

    • Alcohol lessens infant’s intake of milk as well as decreases milk production of the mother

  • HIV may be passed on to the child if the mother is infected

  • Prolonged feeding of breastmilk past 6 months without introduction of solid foods will cause reduced growth and feeding refusals in the child

Breastfeeding foods

Although the quality of breastmilk does not vary despite dietary changes, there’s a catch: when you aren’t consuming adequate nutrients from your diet, your bodily stores will be used. To ensure the optimal nutrition for both mother and child, lactating mothers are strongly encouraged to follow dietary guidelines promoting generous intakes of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, calcium and protein-rich foods.


Examples of key nutrients and their foods:

Calcium: Low fat cheese, yogurt, tofu, broccoli, kale, breads with milk, sardines, salmon, edamame (Japanese green soy beans), white beans, okra (also known as ladies fingers)

Folate: Green beans, fortified cereals, legumes, whole grain cereals, leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli), Cantaloupe

Magnesium: Nuts, scallops, oysters, oatmeal, whole milk, baked beans

Thiamin: Pork, fish, organ meats, corn, seeds, trout, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts

Vitamin B6: Bananas, poultry (turkey, chicken), potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, prunes, watermelon, nuts, fortified cereals, Asian shallots, pears

Iron: red meats, pumpkin seeds, arugula, brown rice, prune juice, cooked spinach, beetroot, tofu, legumes, tempeh, dried fruits


Vegetarians may wish to consume more vitamin B12 plant containing foods/supplements as they are commonly found in meat products. Fortified breakfast cereals are a good choice.

Mothers who are lactose intolerant can supplement their calcium intakes with higher amounts of soy milk or any nut milk, as well as foods mentioned above.


We hope you have enjoyed breastfeeding 101! Share this post to help spread the word about the many benefits of breastfeeding. A healthy society begins with the mother and child. Stay tuned as GetDoc will be bringing you more courses  




Institute of Medicine (U.S.)., & United States. (1991). Nutrition during lactation. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.

World Health Organization





by Sara

Certified nutritionist with sports and fitness in my blood. Basketball is my passion and I live by Ali’s saying “don’t count the days, make the days count” View all articles by Sara.


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