Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding--The Debate Rages On!
Breast milk or infant formula is the sole source of nutrition during the first six months of an infant's life. Therefore, the single most important decision a new mother will make is to breastfeed or bottle feed. Before making such an important decision though, you should have all the facts; the advantages and disadvantages of both options. Then and only then should you make an informed decision based on the facts.
While some women choose to solely breastfeed or solely bottle feed others choose to do a combination of both. Regardless of what method is chosen, each has their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages which are fully discussed next. On a personal note, I have breastfed all 5 of my children and am a big supporter of this choice; however I am going to try to be objective and provide just the facts for both sides of this debate.
Whatever choice a new mom makes is personal and should be supported by family, friends, and healthcare providers.
Advantages of Bottle Feeding:
Despite the negative press that bottle feeding gets, there really are many benefits for both mom and baby such as:
- Freedom -- Unlike breast feeding, a parent who chooses to bottle feed, has more freedom in terms of diet, exercise, scheduling, and returning to work.
- Nutrition -- Infant formula is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is required to be iron-fortified which ensures that a growing infant is receiving all the necessary nutrients needed. Not to mention it is easier to regulate how much your baby is eating.
- Sex -- Bottle feeding prevents the production of lactation hormones that comes with breast feeding, and therefore can provide more sexual freedom.
- Sharing the Bond -- Bottle feeding allows other family members, especially dad, to take part in feeding the baby and thereby creating a long-lasting bond.
- Comfort Level -- Many women are uncomfortable with the thought of breast feeding in public; the choice to bottle feed solves this problem.
Disadvantages to Bottle Feeding:
- Cost -- The cost of bottle feeding can be astronomical. Not only do you have to purchase the actual feeding equipment (i.e. bottles, nipples, disposable liners, bottle brushes, etc.) but you also have to purchase the formula. This is where the cost can become overwhelming. If you are lucky enough to have a baby that doesn't have any digestive issues or lactose intolerance issues, you can purchase the standard iron enriched formula for about $10-14 per can. However, if your baby needs special formula, this cost per can of formula can almost double.
- Inconvenience -- When traveling, a bottle feeding parent must pack enough bottles and formula to last the duration of the trip. This can be bulky and time consuming.
- Preparation -- Preparing bottles is time consuming and if the formula is not properly prepared, served, and stored, it can cause health problems for your baby.
- Immunity -- Unlike breast milk, infant formula does not contain antibodies that can protect baby from diseases.
- Digestive Problems -- Formula fed babies tend to have more disgetive related issues such as constipation and gas because the small, under-developed digestive tract of an infant can't properly digest formula.
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Advantages to Breastfeeding:
Any one that has had children knows that there is a strong push to breast feed your baby. Experts are always touting that it is much healthier than bottle feeding, but why? Well, there are so many benefits for both baby and mom that they are divided into two different lists.
Here are 5 great reasons why breast is best for baby:
- Nutrition -- Breast milk is essentially the perfect nutrition source for infants. Breast milk contains fat, iron, DHA, and antibodies that is very easily digested by babies. Breast fed babies tend to have less digestive health problems compared their bottle fed counterparts.
- Convenient -- Breast milk is readily available without any preparation. It is never too cold or too hot for baby and there is no additional costs associated with feeding baby.
- Immunity -- Breast fed babies have the advantage of receiving antibodies via breast milk that helps to protect them against disease, infection, and even allergies!
- Intelligence -- Scientific studies have proven that breast fed babies have higher IQ's than those who were not. For more information on these studies, visit this site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/05/AR2008050501619.html or this site: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=89266
- Bonding -- Breast feeding is the most natural and special way for a mom to create a special, life-long bond with their child.
Now, here are 5 great reasons why breast is best for mom:
- Weight Loss -- Breast feeding causes your uterus to contract back down to it's pre-pregnancy size faster which promotes faster weight loss. Additionally, producing breast milk burns between 500 - 1,000 calories a day by using your fat stores, which also helps with weight loss.
- Health Benefits -- Breast feeding can reduce a woman's risk of numerous types of cancers such as breast, ovarian, and cervical.
- Birth Control -- Breast feeding delays the return of a woman's menstrual cycle thereby acting as a form of birth control and preventing another pregnancy. (NOTE: Always consult with a doctor regarding birth control options after childbirth as no method is 100% effective.)
- Rest & Relaxation -- A breast feeding mom tends to get more rest and relax more than a bottle feeding mom because she is forced to sit down when it is feeding time. Not to mention a breast feeding mom can lay down with baby, breastfeed, and even catch a nap!
- Quiet -- Moms don't have to listen to a screaming baby while trying to prepare formula, their food is always ready!
Disadvantages of Breast Feeding:
Although there are so many great benefits for both mom and baby, there are also a few disadvantages to breastfeeding. Mostly for mom...
- Time Consuming -- Breast feeding is a big commitment and can take a lot of time. Unlike forumla that is quite filling for babies, breast milk is less bulky and therefore babies tend to want to eat more often. This means that mom must be available on demand for every single feeding.
- Restricted Diet -- Moms who choose this method must be extremely careful of what they eat as many substances can be passed to baby through breast milk. For example, alcohol, caffeine, and many medications should be restricted as they can harm baby or the production of your milk.
- Uncomfortable Feelings -- Many moms, especially new moms, are very uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public which can cause feelings of anxiety, nervousness and tend to make moms "hibernate" in the safety of their homes.
- Lack of Freedom -- Being that mom's must be available at all times for baby to eat, it can be almost impossible to have any freedom. Returning to work and having a night out is difficult.
- Cost -- With no special equipment or formula to buy, breast milk is extremely economical! This is a great benefit--the money you save on formula can be used to buy diapers ; )
- La Leche League
- Breastfeeding Partners
- Breastfeeding Online
Breastfeeding Articles, Advice and Encouragement for Mothers who desire to have happier healthier babies.
- Breastfeeding.com - Everything for the New Mom
Breastfeeding.com - breastfeeding information & support, video clips, directories of Doulas, Midwives, and Lactation Consultants, Ask an LC, and social networks for both moms and medical professionals.
Take a deep breath and relax. You have nine months to do your homework and make an informed decision that will have a maximum benefit for both you and your baby. There are numerous resources available for parents. Here are a few to get you started...
- Your OB/GYN is a great resource. Don't be afraid to ask LOTS of questions. If they don't have the answer (which is rare) they more than likely have a referral to someone who does.
- Lactation Consultants. Many hospitals have a lactation consultant on staff. Find out who this person is your birthing hospital and make contact with them. In addition, most hospitals offer free breastfeeding classes--attend a class or two prior to giving birth.
- La Leche League is a national organization dedicated to spreading awareness about breastfeeding and to educating women.
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