When you become pregnant there are a lot of things to think of and decisions that need to be made. One topic that will come up is breastfeeding versus formula. This is an extremely important decision because this is what will be going into your newborn’s body and will assist your baby in growing. When making this decision it is important to look at all the benefits that breastfeeding provides both mom and baby.
First off there are many reasons why breastfeeding benefits baby including:
- A breastfed baby tends to be a healthier baby. There are fewer incidences of viruses, pneumonia, allergies, colds and more. It is amazing how a baby breastfeeding can create the breast milk he or she needs to fight off viruses, colds and diseases. A mother’s breast milk contains hundreds of antibodies to protect the baby from these health issues. If your baby were to catch a virus, breastfeeding is still extremely important because your baby’s suckling and nursing will create what antibodies and milk he or she needs to feel better. It is truly an amazing thing!A huge part of this is the very firm milk a breastfeeding mother produces when their baby is born, colostrum. A substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) helps guard against invading germs. When your baby ingests IgA, the substance coats their intestines, nose, and throat. This barrier will help block any viruses that may enter baby’s body in the future. Researchers strongly believe that any and every baby should receive colostrum because it will help fight against all sorts of diseases and viruses in the long run of a baby’s life.
- There are research and resources that show breastfeeding can help prevent:
- Crohn’s Disease (lowers the risk)
- Bacterial meningitis
- Diarrheal infections
- Ear infections
- Certain childhood lymphomas
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Breastfeeding cuts the risk of SIDS to about half. There are several reasons why breastfeeding cuts the risk of SIDS in half. SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Syndrome. Breastfeeding can promote safer sleeping with better sleep/wake cycles. Not only does it promote safer sleeping, but also a breastfeeding mother has an increased awareness. Due to the hormones that are produced and released in a breastfeeding mother, she is able to sense a bit better if there is an issue or not.
- You will save a lot of money. Formula can be extremely expensive and breastfeeding does not cost anything besides a pump and supplies, if needed.Breastfeeding is free. Formula costs families hundred and hundreds of dollars a month. On the other hand, if you are breastfeeding you may invest in a good breast pump (which most health insurance companies cover), breast pump supplies, and bottles for your pumped breast milk.
- It’s a lot easier to breastfeed than mixing up formula. I am sure a lot of new breastfeeding mothers would argue about this statement. Yes, breastfeeding can be a struggle at first. To some women it comes easy and naturally; to other women it takes some adjusting and support. Once it becomes comfortable it is so much easier to just lift up your shirt to feed your baby, than to find the proper water and scooping and shaking up formula. You also do not need to worry about cleaning and sterilizing nipples and bottles as often.
- Formulas are recalled all the time. Have you ever heard of breast milk being recalled? No, because it is a natural thing. Formulas are created in a laboratory and distributed all over. Formulas are artificially made to try and be like breast milk, but it is nothing like it. It can be scary for parents who are feeding and trusting in formula companies that they are giving their growing child the very best, to hear a recall of something they have been putting into their baby’s body.
- Breast milk can change its components. As mentioned above, a breastfeeding baby has the capabilities to change the formulation and amount of breast milk that is produced. If a baby is coming down with a cold, the sucking from the baby can change the components of the breast milk to what is needed for the baby to fight off the virus. Also, if a baby goes through a growth spurt, your breastfeeding baby is able to change the amount of milk produced by how much he or she nurses. Formula does not have these capabilities. If your baby becomes sick, you are more than likely going to need to go to the doctor and get medication. Or if your baby is given formula and goes through a growth spurt, you will be purchasing a lot more formula. Sometimes formulas are needed and that is okay, but doing your research and purchasing the best formula for your baby is important. Breast milk also always has the best proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Formula companies are still researching the best way to manufacture this combination, but formula companies have a hard time competing with breast milk. Breast milk’s composition and proportion changes from feeding to feeding depending on what the baby needs.
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula. Human milk contains an enzyme that helps in the process of digestion. There are a lot of benefits for baby and reasons why it is easier to breastfeed, as listed above. There are also several reasons to breastfeed that benefit mom. Cow’s milk, the milk that is used in most formulas, makes up about half the proteins available in formula and is passed through the baby’s body as waste. Which means baby is ingesting formula and receiving only half the nutrients he or she needs. On the other hand, breastfeeding babies are able to use and take in almost all the nutrients offered when they eat. This means less poopy diapers for breastfeeding babies!
- Breastfeeding can calm and relax a baby. Not only does breastfeeding provide nutrition for your baby, but also it is a great way to soothe and relax a baby. The chemicals in breast milk and the activity of breastfeeding releases chemicals in your baby’s brain that helps soothe and relax baby. This is why as babies become older, they sometimes like to breastfeed when they are hurt or upset. They may not be actively receiving breast milk, but the sucking is a great soother.
- Overall, breastfeeding is better for the environment. There is nothing more natural than breastfeeding your baby. Formulas are created in different factories and are packaged. The cows that are raised to be used for formula may not be raised properly or humanely.
- Fresh breast milk is never contaminated with bacteria. When using formula a huge thing to keep in mind is bacteria. Everything needs to be properly cleaned and sterilized. There is also specific water that needs to be used. With breast milk there is no need to worry! In fact, breast milk has antibacterial properties. Some people use extra breast milk to rub on rashes, sores, or even place a few drops in their eyes for an eye infection.
There are a lot of benefits of breastfeeding for moms too including:
- If you do not like to get your period, which I think may be most women, you more than likely will not get your period back for awhile if you are breastfeeding. Each breastfeeding woman is a bit different when it comes to this statement, but it is true. When your baby breastfeeds, it inhibits the hormones that allow your body to prepare for another baby. Some women notice when they return to work and their supply drops, their menstrual cycle will begin again.
- It provides a better healing for you after delivery. When breastfeeding, oxytocin is released, which makes your uterus contract and that decreases the amount of post delivery blood loss. When your baby is born and you have chosen to breastfeed, you will want to try and breastfeed your newborn within 30 minutes of delivery. Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Not only does this help begin and promote a great breastfeeding bond between you and baby, it helps your postpartum body heal after delivery.
- Lowers risk of Type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding helps you lose weight. A lot of new breastfeeding women do lose all their baby weight while breastfeeding, but that is not a true statement for everyone. Do not be hard on yourself if you are not losing weight fast. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and being active are the true and tried ways for losing weight.
- Breastfeeding can be a form of birth control. For some couples, this may work, but I would not use it as your only form of birth control. Although you have lower chances of becoming pregnant while breastfeeding, you definitely can still get pregnant. It is also very common for women to come back for their 6 week or 4 month check-up to discover they are expecting again! There are birth control methods available that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Ask your care provider.
There are hundreds of benefits of breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there are different circumstances where breastfeeding is not an option. A few things to keep in mind if you know exclusively breastfeeding may not be an option for you:
- It is very important that your baby receives the very first milk, colostrum, when he or she is born. Although you may not be able to breastfeed, letting your baby ingest colostrum is a great way to get your newborn off to a healthy start.
- A lot of new mothers believe they need to exclusively breastfeed or not breastfeed at all. This is not true. If you are able to breastfeed for a short period of time, even if it is a few weeks, those weeks of breast milk in your baby’s system is great for his or her health. Or you can breastfeed for six months to one year and use formula to supplement. Any breast milk is better than none at all.
- There are resources available to help you breastfeed. Do not give up right away. The first time you notice a problem, do not hesitate to contact a lactation consultant. It is amazing how many women give up on breastfeeding because of something that would have been extremely easy to fix.
- If you have exhausted all your resources to breastfeed, there are breast milk banks available. These banks allow you to give your baby breast milk if you cannot provide it yourself. This may be a great option if you really want to avoid formula.