What’s the difference between breast milk and cow’s milk?

There are many differences between breast milk and cow’s milk / formula. Cow’s milk is not recommended for babies until they are at least 10 to 12 months of age or older (ask your doctor). Cow’s milk is much more difficult for an infants digestive system to break down and is not nutritionally equal to breast milk. This goes for all types of cow’s milk, regardless of whether it’s whole, low fat, skim, powdered or any other form. The differences between breast milk and cows milk are explained below.

Breast Milk

Antibodies – Helps your baby’s immune system gain strength, fighting off bacteria and viruses. When you or your baby is exposed to a virus or bacteria, your breast milk “fights back” by producing antibodies specific to that virus or bacteria. Formula is exactly the same, time after time, regardless of what your baby is exposed to.

Water – Your breast milk contains the perfect amount of water to satisfy your baby’s thirst and adjusts to your baby’s needs.

Fat – Breast milk contains more fat than cow’s milk and is more easily absorbed by your baby. This is one of the reasons that breast fed babies have different stools than bottle (formula) fed babies. Since the baby is not excreting any wasted fats the stool will be a yellow mustard color with a mildly sweet smell.

Protein – Protein that is used to help your baby’s body grow and develop is in just the right amount and in a form most readily absorbed.

Carbohydrates – Breast milk contains more carbohydrates than cow’s milk. These carbohydrates provide a very important source of energy.

Vitamins and minerals – As long as you, the mother, eat a reasonably well balanced diet, your breast milk will contain all of your baby’s vitamin and mineral requirements, until about age 6 months.

Taste – Breast milk changes in taste, depending on the different foods the mother eats. Breastfed babies are more likely to accept new and different foods once they start on solids (not recommended until age 6 months) than their formula-fed peers, because formula tastes the same every single time, while breastmilk takes on a taste similar to the different foods a mother eats.

Cow’s Milk

No antibodies – Antibodies that are in breast milk are not in cow’s milk / formula and cannot be artificially produced.

Water – The amount of water in cow’s milk / formula can’t change to suit your baby’s need the way breast milk can.

Fat – The fat in cow’s milk / formula is very different than the fat in breast milk and your baby can’t absorb it as easily.

Protein – The amount of protein in cow’s milk / formula is at least double the amount in breast milk and is also a different and less digestible type.

Carbohydrates – Cow’s milk / formula has smaller amounts of carbohydrates than breast milk.

Vitamins and minerals – Cow’s milk / formula has more of some vitamins and minerals and less of others than breast milk; it’s not the right amount for your baby.

There are over 100 ingredients in breast milk which ARE NOT in formula, even the new “DHA added” formulas. Formula is intended as a replacement for breastmilk when breastmilk is not available, but sadly, it does not even come close to it!


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