Trying to decide if you should breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby can be a difficult choice. While studies have shown links to good health that breastfed babies enjoy further down the road, formula is a safe and convenient alternative to breastfeeding. Here’s what you need to know about both options
- Breast milk is full of nutrients. Your newborn needs those nutrients, such as calcium, protein and fat.
- Breast milk may prevent illness. Links to a decreased risk of asthma, allergies and obesity have also been drawn for breastfed babies, and it may contain fatty acids that promote brain development in your child. Breast milk also contains white blood cells that help your infant fight infections.
- Breast milk comes free! In addition to these health benefits, breast milk is an inexpensive way of feeding your baby, and you will always have it on hand for when she’s hungry!
- Breastfeeding is hard on the body. Breastfeeding draws away nutrients from your body and often requires you to be awake for those 3 a.m. feedings.
- Bottle-feeding poses no health risk to your baby. While formula may not provide some of the health benefits of breast milk, there is no reason to say that a bottle-fed baby grows up with any major disadvantages to a breastfed baby. Formula also provides the right proportion of nutrients for your hungry, growing baby and may decrease the risk of newborn infections.
- Bottle-feeding benefits active mothers. In addition to being safe and easy, bottle feeding helps you to sooner return to your former lifestyle so that you can begin eating and going when and where you want without the stress of making sure that you have pumped enough milk for your baby.
- Both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are valid choices. It is important that new mothers and mothers-to-be not feel guilty for choosing either to breastfeed or to bottle-feed their new baby. Women who choose to feed their baby formula often feel ashamed or selfish that they aren’t breastfeeding, but both strategies are perfectly OK.
- Choosing between breastfeeding and formula. Many women choose not to breastfeed for physical or personal reasons, perhaps preferring a more balanced work-home life or wishing to be able to control their own diets again. A breastfeeding mother may feel obligated to return to work or be uncomfortable trying to feed a hungry baby in public, but the choice is the mother’s. Only a mom can decide whether to choose breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, and neither is an indicator of how much she loves her child.
The Bottom Line:
While breastfeeding has been shown to give babies a bump, especially in the first few years, formula has not shown any adverse effects and is a safe and acceptable alternative to breastfeeding. Sometimes the choice is a physical one and sometimes it is for personal reasons but in either case, a mother is doing what’s best for her baby by doing what’s best for her.