Posted on April 13th, 2010 by Michele Ruiz
Among the many decisions every expecting mother must make, how we choose to feed our new little bundles is one of the most important. It probably seems everyone in your life has an opinion on this: your mother, your neighbor, your grandmother, your co-worker, your friend, your friend’s co-workers’ grandmother… and the list goes on. While advice and opinions on this matter may be well-intentioned, they can also tend to be overwhelming for a mother-to-be. Each mother must carefully consider both options and make an informed decision on what is best for her and her baby.
We have all heard the motto “Breast is Best”. It is plastered on our ob/gyn’s wall, in our pregnancy books and we even hear it on television. However, there are pros and cons for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding alike.
- Can create a unique closeness between you and your baby.
- May help you lose weight faster – Breastfeeding burns up to 600 calories a day. Of course, a mother who is breastfeeding needs to consume more calories a day. Talk to your nutrition specialist about your diet so that you may optimize your weight loss while breastfeeding.
- Helps the uterus to shrink faster and reduces bleeding
- Decreases your risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and strengthens bone density
- Enhances your baby’s immune system – There is nothing on the market that will match the natural antibodies found in your breast milk.
- Reduces your baby’s risk of upper respiratory problems (asthma, allergies, etc.), chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc.), and SIDS
- Babies who are breastfed are more likely to excel in school
- Breast milk may be easier for your child to digest – Some breastfed babies spit up less often than their formula-fed peers. This, however, is not a hard and fast rule.
- Content in breast milk changes to suit your baby’s changing needs – The colostrum milk (a thick, sticky substance usually yellow to orange in color) produced during pregnancy and in the early days of breastfeeding works as a laxative to help your baby pass his early stools. It also works as a “vaccine” to protect your baby from environmental viruses in his early stages of life. After about two or three days, your milk supply will change to mature breast milk (thinner, opaque to white substance).
- Less expensive than buying formula – Breastfeeding is not necessarily “free”. Breastfeeding mothers must invest in nursing bras and breast pads to prevent leaking. However, on a long term basis, this is still less expensive than buying formula.
- Available anytime, anywhere
- Increases your risk for breast infection or mastitis
- Higher levels of jaundice are found in babies who are breastfed
- Baby may get dehydrated easier
- Risk of cavities in infants who are breastfed for over a year – Please note, however, that the risk of cavities is still higher for formula-fed babies.
- Risk of rickets (vitamin-D deficiency) – especially in darker skinned babies
- Not necessarily convenient – Although promotion for breastfeeding has made leaps and bounds over the years, there are few places in public that cater to the breastfeeding mother. Many mothers can end up feeling very frustrated over this severe oversight.
- Must always be available for feeding or provide pumped breast milk if absent – After a long pregnancy and grueling delivery, a new mother needs her rest to recover. Newborns must eat every two to three hours for the first weeks of life. The constant caring for her newborn can leave an already tired mother feeling even more fatigued.
- First weeks of breastfeeding may be very painful
- Certain medications can interrupt breastfeeding
- Your diet can have an effect on the baby
- Allows father and other family members to bond with baby – This also allows the mother to get some much needed rest or “alone” time.
- Sometimes more convenient – Once the bottle is made you can feed your baby anytime anywhere.
- You don’t have to worry so much about your diet as it won’t affect your baby
- Easier to monitor the amount of food your baby is eating
- Some formulas provide vitamins and nutrients that breastfed babies have to get through supplements
- Since most formulas are richer than breast milk, frequency of feedings may be decreased
- Although nutritious on their own, formulas just don’t match the antibodies and nutrients of breast milk
- You will have to strictly follow the preparation instructions – Unless you buy pre-made formula (which only lasts a few hours in the refrigerator once opened) you will have to go through the tedious process of boiling water for each bottle for at least the first six months.
- According to your baby’s preference, you may have to warm up the bottle before each feeding – This is especially inconvenient while out and about.
- Baby’s stomach may be more easily upset with formula as it is harder to digest
- More expensive – Depending on the brand you choose, formula can cost between $50 and $200 per month.
There are so many decisions you have ahead of you with regards to yours and your baby’s well-being. You shouldn’t have to feel pressured to go one way or the other when it comes to whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby. Every mother’s set of circumstances is different. Every baby is different. Choose which option is best for both of you and move on with this wonderful new phase of your life. Afterall, the most important thing you can give to your baby is your love and affection – and that isn’t hard at all!