We are all familiar with the smiling housewife in the TV commercial who says, “I use new HAPPY detergent in my automatic Whing-Ding washer because when I first opened up my new washer there was a big box of HAPPY packed right inside of it. In fact, HAPPY is recommended by the manufacturers of nine out of ten automatic washers. Now, with HAPPY, Monday is fun-day!”

We would think Mrs. Housewife pretty silly if she didn’t try her box of HAPPY, since it came so highly recommended. The manufacturer should know what detergent is best for his appliance. If she just threw out her HAPPY and forever after washed her clothes with bar soap that she pulverized each day in her HANDY-DANDY blender we would suspect that she wasn’t quite up to par when it came to common sense.

Before our first daughter was born I intended to nurse her, because doctors said it was the preferred method of baby feeding. After her we had six more children, all of whom were breast-fed for periods ranging from six to fourteen months. I have read many articles in favor of breast-feeding and published several myself, but I have come to realize that, sound as these reasons may be, the most important reason never seems to be stated expressly. The nearest that writers on the subject approach this reasons of reasons is in saying that a baby should be breast-fed because it is the natural thing to do.

When you come right down to it, the reason for nursing a baby is that breast-feeding is part of God’s plan. Need there be another reason? Contrary to the impression often given in magazines and on television, woman is equipped with breasts in order that she may feed her young. When a woman has a baby she will, unless she is given hormone pills to dry her up, soon have milk for that baby. It is, if you will, part of God’s “package deal.” Breast milk is the food recommended by the Manufacturer for His product and delivered therewith. And in this case the Manufacturer is no fallible human but a Being infinitely wiser than we, Whose reasons we cannot begin to fathom.

In the ordinary baby formula, water and some type of sugar are added to cow’s milk to make it somewhat like human milk. There are other preparations available which have been modified, conditioned, and fortified to make them even more like human milk. But even the formula which is most like human milk can never claim to be “just like mother used to make.”

What are the qualities of human milk that make it superior to any other baby food? Why would even an atheist who studied the subject say, “The best-fed baby is the breast-fed baby”?

For one thing, breast milk is always at the right temperature–body temperature. The baby does not have to wait while mother warms some milk from the refrigerator, nor is he offered a bottle that is too warm to start off with and too cool by the time he reaches the end. And while it is nice for baby to be fed without delay when he is happy, it is also nice for mother not to have to run to the kitchen for a bottle-warming session when baby awakes during the night.

Secondly, breast milk is germ-free. Fresh milk, even when pasteurized, contains many bacteria and must be boiled to be safe for baby’s use. Whether at home or while traveling, a nursing mother need never worry about the purity of her baby’s milk supply. And although breast milk is superior to the most expensive milk-substitute on the market, it is economical. Mother does not have to throw away the unused milk after feeding nor does she have to whip up an extra batch of formula when baby is a little hungrier than usual. The supply of breast milk is self-adjusting. Increased nursing on the part of the baby automatically brings about increased production on the part of the mother. Likewise, as the baby grows older, breast milk continues to meet his changing needs. The mother does not have to adopt a new formula every few weeks because the old one was too weak or too rich for baby.

Breast milk contains less protein and more sugar than cow’s milk, and in the baby’s stomach it forms small fleck-like curds in contrast to the large, hard-to-digest curds formed by cow’s milk. This is one of the reasons why breast milk is so important in feeding the premature baby with its immature digestive system. Furthermore, the vitamins in breast milk have not been destroyed by heating as have most of those in formulas.

It stands to reason that it is going to be easier on baby all around if, after birth, his food supply comes from the same source it did before birth–his mother. The mother is a kind of buffer between the baby and the world. Through her milk she can help him gain immunity to disease (for example, antibodies which destroy bacteria and viruses such as the the virus of polio have been found in human milk). The mother has even been referred to as a sort of “antibody factory” for her baby. Her experienced body can help his inexperienced one. It is a matter of record that breast-fed babies have milder colds, fewer digestive upsets, and much less eczema than bottle babies. They also make better weight gains in those important first three months, and have no constipation. The more science discovers about human milk, the more wonderful it seems.

Some mothers have wondered if they are more likely to have breast cancer if they nurse their babies. The evidence is all to the contrary. Women who nurse seem to have less cancer of the breast than those who don’t and it has been suggested that, because the glands are allowed to perform their natural function, they have less tendency to run wild in a cancerous growth.

Then, too, breast feeding is the most natural way to space babies as it often has the effect of postponing future pregnancies. Some mothers do not become pregnant as long as they are nursing. Others do, but nursing usually delays conception in these cases, too. I have yet to hear of a nursing mother who had a baby every twelve months as some non-nursing mothers do.

From a psychological point of view it is generally conceded that it is good for a baby to be held and cuddled while being fed. The breast-fed baby gets plenty of mother-contact. The nursing mother cannot succumb to the temptation to prop the bottle by the baby while she goes about her many duties. When baby is hungry, she takes time out to feed him and it does them both good.

According to medical men, more than 90% of all women should be physically able to nurse their babies if they tried. Dr. Herbert Ratner, associate clinical professor of preventive medicine and public health at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine says, “The modern physician must realize that he is basically criticizing God as inept when he….routinely permits the substitution of bottle for breast feeding…”

Does God know what he is doing when he sends milk along with a new baby? The evidence would indicate that he does.