Breast Milk or Formula?
Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is one of the first decisions a new mom must make. And it is a decision that many moms become extremely passionate about.
Health experts and organizations, such as the Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the World Health Organization, recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months and that breastfeeding should continue until at least twelve months if both the mother and baby are able.
The health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding are well documented. Still, for some mothers and babies it is simply not an option. The important thing to remember is that every mom has to do what works best for her and for her baby.
To ensure success with breastfeeding, you should learn as much about it as possible before delivery. The first attempts at nursing should being immediately after delivery. Nursing should continue, on demand, about every two hours, until you and your baby fall into a breastfeeding routine. Steer clear of supplements and artificial nipples until your baby has learned how to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding your baby is an extremely rewarding and loving experience that benefits both a mother and her baby. It provides the ideal nourishment for a growing baby and creates a unique bonding experience that many nursing mothers cherish. Here's a look at some of the many advantages of breastfeeding.
Postpartum Weight Loss
Human breast milk is the perfect food for human babies. It contains the precise ratio of protein, calories, and fats as well as vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that a baby needs to grow and thrive. Breast milk is more easily digested than formula so that breastfed babies have fewer incidences of diarrhea or constipation. As a group, formula-fed infants have more difficulty with digestion than do breastfed infants. A mother's breast milk also changes to meet the needs of her growing baby.
The FDA requires formula manufacturers to ensure that they provide all the known necessary nutrients in their formulas. And while commercial formulas are a fine alternative to breast milk, they do not offer an identical match to the ingredients and composition of the real thing. This is because scientists have not yet been able to identify or duplicate some of breast milk's more complex substances.
Antibodies passed from a nursing mother to her baby can help lower the occurrence of many conditions, including ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and meningitis. Research shows that formula-fed infants have more infections and more hospitalizations than do breastfed babies. Breastfeeding boosts a baby's immune system by increasing the barriers to infection and decreasing the growth of organisms like bacteria and viruses.
If you are nursing, pay close attention to what you put in your body. Drugs, nicotine, alcohol, and even some foods can be secreted in breast milk. You may need to increase your calorie intake; nursing requires about 600 extra calories a day. And drink plenty of fluids to increase your milk supply.
Studies also show that breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for babies who are born prematurely and it may help to protect children against allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Sucking at the breast promotes good jaw development as well. Its harder work to get milk out of a breast than a bottle, and the exercise strengthens the jaws and encourages the growth of straight, healthy teeth. The baby at the breast also can control the flow of milk by sucking and stopping. With a bottle, the baby must constantly suck or react to the pressure of the nipple placed in the mouth. Recent studies also suggests that children who were exclusively breastfed for six months have IQs in the range of five to ten points higher than children who were formula fed.
One of the best benefits to breastfeeding is that unlike costly commercial formulas, breast milk doesn't cost a cent. Nor does it require any additional apparatus in the form on bottles, bottle warmers, and nipple sterilizers.
In addition, breastfed babies are sick less often than infants who receive formula. That translates to fewer trips to the doctor's office and less money doled out for medications. In a study published in the April 1999 issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers determined that infants who were never breastfed would incur additional medical costs of $331 to $475 per year.
Breast milk does not have to be prepared in any way before it is served at mealtime. There is no mixing, no heating, and no bottles to sterilize. Nursing moms are often particularly grateful during middle of the night feedings because there is no formula to prepare or heat up. And breastfeeding mothers generally have an easier time getting out and about with their babies because they don't have to worry about running out of food or finding a place to heat it up on the go.
Recent studies indicate that breastfeeding might help prevent childhood and adult obesity. According to the National Women's Health Information Center, babies who are breastfed tend to gain less unnecessary weight, which may prevent obesity into adulthood. Breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker.
Breastfeeding allows new moms to bond closely with their babies through skin-to-skin contact. For many, it helps to enhance the emotional connection between a mother and her infant. In addition, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of premenopausal breast cancer and also may help decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding does have many fantastic benefits for a mom and her baby, but it is not without its challenges as well. For some new moms and babies, nursing comes very easily. But for others, it may require a bit more patience and persistence. Here are some of the common challenges that you may experience when breastfeeding.
Watch out for infection! While it is natural for breastfeeding to be slightly uncomfortable at first, you should seek medical attention if you experience fever or painful lumps and redness in your breasts. These symptoms indicate the presence of an infection that may require medication and/or an altered nursing schedule.
- Cow's milk
- Gas-inducing vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, or beans)
Breastfeeding a baby is a new experience and it may initially feel uncomfortable until you get the hang of it. While it shouldn't hurt, latch pain is normal for the first week or two until you and your baby grow accustomed to the process. If pain or discomfort is a problem, seek out the help of a lactation consultant, or your baby's pediatrician to help diagnose and alleviate the problem.
Breastfeeding is very convenient in that a new mother always has a supply of food ready for her baby. But the time investment required can also be a bit of a challenge. If you decide to formula-feed your baby, your partner and other family members will be able to share in the feeding responsibilities, giving you a much-needed break.
Even if a new mom decides to pump her breast milk, lactation experts recommend that a breastfeeding baby should not be introduced to a bottle for the first several weeks until he is more comfortable with breastfeeding. That means that for the first few weeks, the new mother will need to be available for nursing every few hours around the clock. There's no question that this can be exhausting, especially when you are also trying to recover from labor and delivery.
Some women are also concerned that nursing will make it hard for them to work, run errands, or travel because of a breastfeeding schedule or a need to pump breast milk during the day. Another factor to consider is that breastfed babies need to eat more often than babies who are fed formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula.
The foods you eat will travel from your bloodstream directly in to your breast milk. So there are a number of foods and beverages that you should avoid if you plan to breastfeed your baby. Nursing mothers must be careful to avoid the following items:
Talk to your health care provider or your baby's pediatrician if you have any concerns about the foods you can eat while nursing.
Breastfeeding is wonderful, but, for a variety of reasons, it may not be a good fit for every mother and baby. In these situations, commercially prepared infant formulas are an excellent alternative. Commercial formula is manufactured under sterile conditions, and regulated by the FDA to ensure that it comes as close as possible to the complex combination of proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins found in breast milk. If you decide not to breastfeed your baby, it is important that you use only a commercially prepared formula and that you do not try to create your own. Here are some of the primary advantages to using formula.
Frequency of Feedings
The main benefit of feeding a baby formula is that it can offer you a break from the rigors of caring for your new baby. Either parent, or other friends and family members, can feed the baby a bottle at any time, allowing you to share the responsibilities of feeding your baby. If you need to care for other children, work, or travel frequently, formula feeding may make it easier for you to leave your baby with your partner or caregiver for extended periods. And formula-feeding moms don't need to worry about finding a private place to nurse in public.
Can I breastfeed my baby if I am on medication?
Even mothers who must take daily medication for conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, or high blood pressure can usually breastfeed. But you should talk with your baby's pediatrician about medications you are taking while nursing. When you do need to take medication, minimize your baby's exposure by taking the drug just after nursing or before your baby sleeps.
Because formula digests slower than breast milk, formula-fed babies usually need to eat less often than do breastfed babies. However, this varies depending upon the needs of each individual baby.
New moms who feed their babies formula don't have to worry about the things they eat or drink affecting their babies.
Commercially prepared formula offers a number of benefits for moms and new babies. But as with breastfeeding, there are some challenges to consider when deciding whether to formula feed.
Gas and Constipation
Unlike breast milk, which is ready at all times, formula must be prepared and heated in sterilized containers for each feeding. Bottles, nipples, and utensils used to prepare formula must be washed before and after each feeding. Ready-to-feed formulas that can be poured directly into a bottle without any mixing or water tend to be very expensive and wasteful.
Although formula manufacturers do their best to duplicate the complex ratio of proteins, fats, and nutrients found in breast milk, they have yet to duplicate the complexity of breast milk, which changes as the baby's needs change. In addition, formulas do not contain any of the important disease-preventing antibodies that are commonly found in breast milk. According to the FDA, human milk contains at least 100 ingredients not found in formula.
While breast milk is free and available in a virtually unlimited supply, formula can be a costly expense. Powdered formula is the least expensive, followed by concentrated, while ready-to-feed formula products are the most expensive. If your baby requires a specialty formula, such as a soy-based or hypoallergenic formula, the cost will be even greater. During the first year of life, the cost of basic formula can run about $1,500.
Formula-fed babies may have more gas and firmer bowel movements than breastfed babies.