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August 11, 2015

Formula Feeding vs. Breastfeeding: A Few Things to Consider

breastfeeding bottle 72 dpi

Having a baby means making a lot of decisions. What colour should you paint the nursery? Should you go with disposable or cloth diapers? Should you co-sleep with your little one or put baby to sleep in a crib? The list is exhaustive. One of the most important decisions facing new mothers is how to feed their baby: will mom breastfeed exclusively or opt to formula feed instead?

Considering the majority of a baby’s first months of life revolve around frequent feedings, this is a huge and often overwhelming decision, and unfortunately in many cases new mothers are making this decision without much support. According to a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, many new moms do not receive advice from physicians on various aspects of infant care, including breastfeeding.

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month, shining a spotlight on the benefits of breastfeeding, which has been linked to everything from a lower risk of ear infections to helping protect against Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

But while breastfeeding advocates say “breast is best,” for many new mothers nursing doesn’t come naturally and can be very difficult. In some cases, a woman may not produce enough breast milk or a baby may have trouble latching, making exclusive breastfeeding impossible.

If you or someone you know is having a baby, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering whether to breastfeed or formula feed.

Breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding protects babies against several illnesses. Studies have even shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers. Scientists believe antibodies in breast milk may give a boost to a baby’s immune system.
  • Breastfeeding may help children avoid diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • A German study published in 2009 found that breastfeeding (either exclusively or partially) is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Nursing triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which has been found to promote feelings of relaxation. Oxytocin released while nursing also helps the uterus contract after birth, resulting in less postpartum bleeding.
  • Breast milk is always readily available, is always the right temperature and is free. Breast milk also changes in composition to meet a baby’s changing needs as he grows.

Formula feeding

  • Other caregivers can give a bottle to a formula fed baby, allowing mom to share feeding duties. This can be especially beneficial during nighttime feedings.
  • For mothers who are either unable to breastfeed or choose not to, formula is a healthy alternative, providing babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
  • Formula is less digestible than breast milk, so formula-fed babies usually need to eat less often than breastfed babies (this can make scheduling feedings easier.)
  • Moms who formula feed don’t need to worry about their own diets. Moms who breastfeed may have to avoid certain foods that their babies can’t tolerate.

At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that new mothers have a choice about how to feed their babies and whatever choice a mother makes is the right one for her and her little one. If a new mom has any questions about feeding her child, Best Doctors is here to provide resources and support, alongside her healthcare practitioner. Hopefully we can help make the bumpy journey into parenthood just a little bit smoother.