According to Dr. Fuhrman we're a culture indoctrinated by the message, "Drink your milk. It will help you grow big and strong." So many mothers prematurely abandon breastfeeding and turn to cow's milk. In Disease Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman contends this isn't a good idea:
Humans are designed to be raised on human milk in the first few years of life, not cow's milk. Human milk makes for slower growth. Cow's milk is specially designed for baby cows, and it supplies the nutrients to facilitate the rapid growth natural to cows.
Even baby formula isn't an adequate substitute for the real thing. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
No infant formula can duplicate human milk. Human milk contains living cells, hormones, active enzymes, immunoglobins, and compounds with unique structures that cannot be replicated.
So what's the solution? The answer is to breastfeed. Roni Rabin of The New York Times reports more and more health experts are acknowledging the resounding benefits of breastfeeding. It's worth reading the whole article. It touches on research suggesting breast milk can reduce the likelihood of all kinds of diseases, including obesity:
Ample scientific evidence supports the contention that breast-fed babies are less vulnerable to acute infectious diseases, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, experts say. Some studies also suggest that breast-fed babies are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome and serious chronic diseases later in life, including asthma, diabetes, leukemia and some forms of lymphoma, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The evidence that breastfeeding is better for children's health is so overwhelming that Rabin reports even the formula manufacturers acknowledge that breast milk is the first choice. Senator Tom Harkin has proposed warning labels on infant formula, making clear that the FDA recommends breastfeeding over formula.
Dr. E. Stephen Buescher says breast milk has special properties:
"I think of human milk not just as food, but as a sophisticated and intricate infant support system that has evolved over millions of years to provide the infant with nutrition, protection and components of information," said Dr. E. Stephen Buescher, a professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, who heads the inflammation section in the school's Center for Pediatric Research.
"It isn't just calories," Dr. Buescher said.
The protection that breast-feeding provides against acute infectious diseases—including meningitis, upper and lower respiratory infections, pneumonia, bowel infections, diarrhea and ear infections—has been among the most extensively studied of its benefits and is well documented, said Dr. Lawrence M. Gartner, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section.
Breast-fed babies have 50 percent to 95 percent fewer infections than other babies, Dr. Gartner said, adding, "It's pretty dramatic."
When it comes to nursing your child, you can't beat the real thing. Dr. Fuhrman says breastfeeding inspires healthy human development:
The antibodies derived from mother's milk are necessary for maximizing immune system function, maximizing intelligence, and protecting against immune system disorders, allergies, and even cancer. The child's immune system is still underdeveloped until age of two, the same age when the digestive tract seals the leaks (spaces between cells) designed to allow the mother's antibodies access to the bloodstream. So picking the age of two as the length of recommended breast-feeding is not just a haphazard guess, it matches the age at which the child is no longer absorbing the mother's immunoglobulins to supplement their own immune system. Nature designed it that way.
Dr. Fuhrman recommends feeding an infant only breast milk for the first six months, but he also suggests mothers continue some breastfeeding even if its only twice a day until the second birthday. There is much more on feeding infants in Disease Proof Your Child.