Breastfeeding versus Formula Feeding: What You Need To Know
Breastfeeding versus formula feeding is a very popular debate among new moms. Is breastfeeding better than formula? Which one is more efficient? Some people feel uncomfortable around moms who are breastfeeding while others criticize women for not feeding their baby breast milk, as it’s considered as “nature’s perfect food.”
No matter what mode of nutrition you choose for your baby, people are going to have different opinions about it.
In this article, we have tried to give you as much information as you need to make the choice that is right for YOU between breastfeeding and formula feeding. You will know which one is better and more practical for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding is known to be the best source of nutrition for infants. Breast milk contains all the nutrients required for a baby. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies that boost the immune system of your baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. During this time, your baby doesn’t need solid food, liquid, or even water. Also, even after you start introducing other foods to your baby you should continue breastfeeding.
What are the advantages of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has many benefits. It is very practical because it is available at any time, at the right temperature for your baby and usually, you will have enough milk to satisfy your baby’s needs.
Other advantages of breastfeeding for your infant include:
- Breast milk has all the nutrients that your baby’s body needs. It includes all important proteins, calcium, fat, and carbohydrates.
- Breastfeeding may lower the risk of a baby’s sudden infant death syndrome (also known as SIDS), during the early stages of life.
- Breastfeeding might raise your child’s intelligence. Recent studies have shown that babies who breastfeed have higher levels of cognitive function.
- It is easily available and free of cost.
- Breast milk provides antibodies, that help fight off infections such as ear infections.
- Breast milk is easily digestible leading to lower digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, or gas.
- It also helps the baby in later years of life by reducing the risk of obesity, asthma, allergies, type 1 and type 2-diabetes, high cholesterol level, cardiovascular disease, leukemia, lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s disease.
There are also advantages of breastfeeding for mothers:
- Breastfeeding helps prevents the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, and osteoporosis.
- It helps you to burn calories and lose pregnancy weight faster. But make sure you eat and drink enough fruits and healthy fluids so your body can make more milk!
- During breastfeeding, your brain produces oxytocin. This hormone helps you and your baby relax and bond together. It is responsible for the letdown or flow reflex which is when or why your milk begins flowing when you need to feed your baby.
You can also pump and store breast milk for later use.
Although breastfeeding has several advantages, there are also some disadvantages:
- The biggest challenge that you may experience is the pain and soreness of your breasts. Sometimes, breastfeeding can be painful. But once your baby masters the latching position, you will be relieved to some extent.
- Breastfed babies need to be fed more often as you don’t know how much they are actually getting.
- When breastfeeding, you have to wear special clothing and if you’re like most people, you need to find a special area to feed your baby. You also need cloth covers for the privacy needs to feed your baby.
- You have to be careful with what you eat, as everything is passed on to the baby. So there are dietary restrictions when you are breastfeeding your baby.
- And of course, you are the only one who can feed the baby, unless you’re pumping and storing your milk.
- Other challenges can be engorgement or infections that can make breastfeeding more difficult.
Would my baby need any additional nutrition during breastfeeding?
Babies can receive all the nutrients they need from breastfeeding alone. If you think that your baby requires additional nutrition, consult your pediatrician.
Doctors usually recommend vitamin D to infants, especially if you are only breastfeeding. Vitamin D helps your baby to absorb calcium and phosphorus that are important for bone strength and growth.
How to use bottles for breastfeeding
If your baby isn’t breastfeeding properly, having trouble latching on to the breast, or if you cannot breastfeed for any other reason you can pump breast milk.
It is a very convenient method and you can store as much milk as you want. Then all you need to do is warm the amount of breast milk in a bottle before giving it to your baby. Always use a clean and sterilized bottle to feed your baby.
How to increase breast milk supplyIf you want to increase your breast milk supply you should ensure you eat healthy food, drink lots of water, and rest as much as you can. There are herbs that you can include in your diet to increase your breast milk supply. These include fenugreek, garlic, ginger, fennel, alfalfa, spirulina, brewer’s yeast and blessed thistle.
Keep your confidence level high, learning as much as you can about postpartum and breastfeeding. It will help you to stay stress-free. Keeping your surroundings peaceful and calm will also help with your breastmilk production.
You can also try breastfeeding more frequently, having your baby feed from both breasts at each feed or pumping between feedings.
Ask your partner or someone you trust for support if needed. You can also consult your health care provider or a lactation consultant at any time.
Although breastfeeding is considered the best source of nutrition for infants many factors may lead you to consider formula-feeding.
One of the most common reasons is the pain and discomfort associated with breastfeeding mainly because of an incorrect latch position. Other reasons can be
- The time commitment and frequency of feedings
- Dietary - as what you eat or drink can be passed to your baby
- Other medical concerns (certain medications or even chemotherapy), or breast surgery
Formula feeding and its advantages
Formula feeding is not a bad option to feed your infant. Some of the benefits of formula feeding are:
- Formula feeding is a very convenient way to feed your baby. If a mother is asked to go on bed rest then using formula milk for your infant’s diet is the best option for you. It gives a chance to the mother to have some rest as other members of the family can get involved with baby feeding.
- Nowadays, baby formula is produced to very high standards and provides all the essential nutrients to your baby. It is also very helpful for the healthy growth and development of premature infants.
If you are going to select bottle feeding you need a kit. Always carry feeding bottles, teats, and bottle warming equipment with you.
How can infant formula be dangerous for the baby?
Infant formula can be dangerous for some babies as it doesn’t contain any immune-boosting elements that breast milk contains. It’s also not as easily digestible as breast milk.
If prepared carefully and as directed, infant formula supports healthy babies who have normal dietary needs. Some babies who are premature or weak when born require a special formula to meet their nutritional needs.
Which milk type is more easily digested?
Breast milk contains soothing compounds that encourage the baby to sleep. It is also very easily digested so your baby wakes often to feed.
Formula milk isn’t as easily digested. So your baby stays fuller for a much longer time. Formula-fed babies, however, are more prone to gas, bloating, and pain. So you may still have to stay awake to soothe your crying baby.
Can breastfeeding and formula feeding be combined?
Feeding your baby with breast milk and formula milk is called combination feeding and many parents do this.
Sometimes, mothers may combine breastfeeding with formula feeding. They use formula milk when they are in a public place breast milk otherwise. In this way, you don’t need to prepare your infant’s feed at midnight.
Formula feeding combined with breastfeeding however can disrupt how your baby breastfeeds. It can also lower the milk supply.
Before you introduce formula milk to your baby, wait until your baby is at least one month old. You should make sure that breastfeeding is well developed and your baby can balance both.
Why should you not mix formula milk with breast milk?
If you are giving a combination feeding to your baby, make sure you are not adding formula directly to your breast milk. Formula milk is prepared to provide the basic vitamins and calories to your baby.
If you want to mix breast milk with formula milk, add some water in formula milk before you mix it with breast milk.
How long should you breastfeed?
Experts recommend that you breastfeed your infant for at least 6 months. Breastfeeding should also be continued even after you start solid food. Your baby can drink breast milk even until he or she reaches the age of 2 years.
Deciding on the best option for your baby is not an easy task- it might be difficult to decide which one is better. To know which one is better, focus on your baby.
Once your baby arrives you can decide if you can meet the expenses of formula milk or if you can avoid eating your favorite food that might be dangerous for your little infant while breastfeeding.
Most women decide before the birth but once their baby arrives they change their minds. While you are focusing on the pros and cons of breastfeeding and formula feeding think about your baby’s health.
Ask your doctor or lactation consultant, they can help you to make the best decision. If your baby is feeding normally and regularly then you can continue breastfeeding but if your baby is very weak or not able to suck properly you always have another option.
There are many opinions around breastfeeding vs formula feeding. Breastfeeding does contain everything that your baby needs and for this reason is the preferred choice. However, every mom’s situation is different. So make the choice that works best for you.