What makes us mammals? The fact that we are warm blooded vertebrates? Live birth? Fur or hair? Well…yes, but the defining factor is mammary glands, the glands that make breast milk, which is one of the evolutionary wonders of the mammal world.
It is commonly said that breast is best, and an overwhelming body of scientific evidence confirms that breastfeeding is indeed superior to formula. Does not breastfeeding mean that someone is a neglectful parent? Absolutely not! There are valid reasons for not breastfeeding. Sometimes babies might have a vitamin deficiency that requires formula, or a mother might need to use formula in order to balance a work schedule that is beneficial to both mother and baby, which are both completely understandable reasons not to breastfeed.
There are some grey areas as well. When the mother is ill, especially from an active infectious disease, it is usually in the best interest for the infant to have formula. Nonetheless, even with mothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who are HIV positive, so long as their infection is adequately controlled by antiretroviral medication and that the risk of mother-to-child transmission is virtually nonexistent, breastfeeding can provide better nutrition than formula and it also reduces the risk of endemic parasites contaminating the water used to mix formula. None of the above should be accepted as medical advice, but there are some situations where breast might not be best.
But…breast is usually best because it benefits both the mother and the baby. Immunity to bacteria and viruses are passed from the mother to the child through breastmilk, and even some chronic diseases such as asthma and obesity have been shown to be lower in breastfed babies. Babies who are breastfed are even argued to have higher IQs. For the mother, pregnancy weight and uterine size are likely to return to normal faster should she breastfeed. These are just a small list of some of the many benefits of the evolutionary method to feed infants.
Remember, we are mammals because of our mammary glands, and no matter how good our lab sciences may get, our evolutionary engineered breastmilk is best.