One of biggest decisions a new mother can make is whether to breastfeed or use formula. Although the majority of mother's these days choose to breastfeed, it can be a difficult decision, but take comfort that both choices are sound and legitimate.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and the Institute of Medicine all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by a combination of breast milk and complementary foods for up to at least 12 months of age.
The decision on whether to breastfeed isn't simply a medical one. The decision on how to feed your baby is a personal decision that each mother has to decide for herself. Don't feel pressured to breastfeed if your heart isn't in it, or the thought makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed.
Although breastfeeding offers undeniable benefits, bottle-fed babies remain perfectly healthy. Breastfeeding is the best opportunity for a mother to bond with her baby, bottle-feeding can also be a very warm and loving way to interact with your baby. Not only for the mother, but also for anyone else who may help care for the baby.
We're going to list some of the advantages of breastfeeding and why some mother's choose bottle-feeding.
Advantages of breastfeeding for the baby:
- It can strengthen the baby's immune system and help reduce the risk of allergies, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can also decrease the chances of pneumonia in the baby's first year of life.
- Babies who are exclusively breast-fed for six months have a decrease number of ear infections (otitis media), fewer gastrointestinal infections and a lower chance of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious illness more commonly seen in premature babies bu occasionally seen in term infants.
- When breast-fed babies grow up, they have lower chances of developing inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) celiac disease ( a problem with digesting gluten), diabetes, childhood leukemia, and lymphoma. They also have a lower risk of adolescent and adult obesity.
- Breast-fed babies, when they enter school, have higher intelligence scores and higher ratings by their teachers.
- Mother's milk contains nutrients that are suited to a baby's digestive system. The most commonly used formulas contains proteins from cow's milk that aren't as easily digested, and your baby can't readily use the nutrients it contains.
- Human milk also contains substances that help protect a baby from infections until his own immune system matures. These substances are especially plentiful in the colostrum that mothers' breasts secrete during the first few days after the baby is born.
- Babies are more likely to have an allergic reaction to formula than to mother's milk.
Advantages to breastfeeding for the mom:
- Moms who breastfeed have less postpartum blood loss and an increased rate of involution (the uterus getting back to its normal, pre-pregnancy size). They also have lower rates of postpartum depression and are less prone to child abuse and neglect.
- If you breastfeed your baby, you have lower risks of adult-onset diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer later in life.
- Breastfeeding is emotionally rewarding. Many women feel tht they develop a special bond with their baby when they breastfeed, and they enjoy the closeness surrounding the whole experience.
- Breastfeeding is convenient. You can't leave home without it. You never have to carry bottles or formula with you.
- Mother's milk is cheaper than formula and bottles
- You don't have to warm up breast milk: it's always the perfect temperature
- Breastfeeding provides some degree of birth control (although it's not totally reliable)
- Lactation (milk production) causes you to burn extra calories, which may help you lose some of the weight you gained during pregnancy.
- A breast-fed baby's bowel movements don't have as strong an odor as those of babies who are formula-fed
- Breast milk is pretty much organic - no additives, no preservatives
- Some studies suggest that women who breastfeed may reduce their lifetime risk of breast cancer.
Situations in which breastfeeding is not recommended
- If the infant has a rare genetic dis order called classical galactosemia
- If the mother has untreated tuberculosis or brucellosis
- If the mother is taking certain medications such as amphetamines, chemotherapeutic agents ergotamines, or statins.
Reasons for choosing bottle-feeding:
- You don't want to breastfeed. If your heart isn't in it, it's not going to happen. Too much trial and error is involved in making breastfeeding work for someone who's not truly committed to succeeding.
- You've tried breastfeeding, and your breasts don't produce enough milk to feed your baby
- Bottle-feeding better fits your lifestyle. Although many working mothers breastfeed, others feel that juggling the requirements of their job with those of breastfeeding is just too difficult.
- Some women find the whole concept of feeding their baby a "bodily secretion" unpleasant.
- Bottle-feeding enables others to feed the baby.
- If you have a chronic infection, bottle-feeding helps ensure that you don't pass the infection to the baby via breast milk. (Women who carry the hepatitis B virus can breastfeed as long as the baby has received the hepatitis B vaccine. If you are hepatitis C positive, it's generally safe to breastfeed as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
- If you or your baby is very sick after delivery, bottle-feeding may be your only option. A mother or baby who's in the intensive care unit (ICU) because of a complicated delivery often can't initiate breastfeeding.
- If you've had surgery on your breasts, bottle-feeding may be your best bet; you may not be able to lactate. No medical evidence indicates that lactation has any effect on the progression of breast cancer after it has already been diagnosed, but some women who have had surgery or other treatment for breast cancer are unable to lactate. Also, some evidence suggests that women who have had breast implants produce less milk. However, many of these women produce some milk and can still breastfeed.
Mother's often ask whether they can breastfeed if they're taking medications for psychiatric problems (psychotropic drugs - some antidepressants fall in this category). The jury is still out on this issue, but most providers feel that medications commonly used today for depression and anxiety are relatively safe and that not treating the problem could cause more danger to the baby than any small risk these medications may pose. Ask your doctor about medications you take on a regular basis.
Resource: Pregnancy for dummies - All in one