There are a lot of questions about the difference between breast-milk and formula; is formula good alternative to breastfeeding; which short-term and long-term benefits of breastfeeding and formula feeding you should consider as relevant; and so on. It seems that everyone has an opinion about the subject, including scientists and every person who sees you feed your baby in one or the other way.
All these contradictory opinions will probably confuse you while you try to decide which way of feeding will be better for both you and your baby. Let me give you some tips which may help you to make the best possible decision which fits the whole of your family including the new member.
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Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding – The Usual Myths
Before giving you the most significant pros and cons of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, it would be nice to disclose some of the common misconceptions about feeding a baby. If you have any additional concerns, talk to the pediatrician and try to come to the solution together.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Myth 1 – You should avoid breastfeeding and using the formula at the same time
The truth is that there is no any reason why you shouldn’t combine both ways after the baby’s first few months. In fact, a few studies suggest that it is an excellent solution which helps a mother to breastfeed longer.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Myth 2 – Formula is not complete nutrition for a baby
The truth is that the US Food and Drug Administration provides regulations for all companies which produce formulas in the US. Today, formulas are closer to mom’s milk than ever before. Plus, most of them contain vitamin D, unlike breast-milk.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Myth 3 – Formula decreases breast milk supply
The truth is that more breast milk your sweetie drinks, the more milk your body will produce. After your milk supply is well-established, adding formula to the baby’s diet will help your body to adjust milk production accordingly.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Myth 4 – Bottles increase ‘nipple confusion’
The truth is that your baby is not confused with different types of nipples, but probably gives preference to the one particular nipple. Make an experiment and discover which nipple style works best for your little one.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding – Which One Is Better and Why?
Breastfeeding vs. Formula feeding– Which one is better for your child is the million dollar question. No one can give you the right answer to that dilemma. There are reasons for both ways of feeding, positive and negative almost equally. Let’s take a look.
The Positive Sides of Breastfeeding
Fighting infections– The truth is that breastfed babies don’t suffer from various diseases as much as formula-fed babies because the secretory immunoglobulin and germ-fighting factors from Colostrum (the first milk) pass from a mother to her little one by milk and make baby’s immune system stronger (the passive immunity). That means that breastfed baby is more resistant to germs and has fewer chances to get:
- Respiratory infections
- Ear infections
- Stomach viral infection
- Diabetes type 1 and 2
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- High cholesterol
- Hodgkin’s disease
Breast milk also reduces the risk of these diseases in later child’s years. Moreover, one National Institutes of Health study shows that breastfed babies have a 20% lower risk of dying during the first year of life compared to babies who are formula-fed during this time. The longer the baby is breastfed, the lower the threat is. Plus, don’t forget how vital breastfeeding can be for premature babies.
In the same time, it is less likely for breastfeeding moms to have problems with:
- Losing weight after pregnancy
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetes Type 2
- Breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers
Protection from allergies – Study’s results show that breastfeeding may prevent a food allergies development on the two ways. Firstly, the baby is exposed to various foods her mother eats and secretes through her milk. Secondly, breast milk makes your baby’s immune system stronger.
Mom-baby contact – Most breastfeeding moms enjoy the ‘skin-to-skin’ contact with their babies and believe that this way they bond with their little ones more closely. It is the fact that close contact can intensify the emotional connection between a mother and her child.
Oxytocin – Mom’s body starts to produce this hormone soon after baby birth and while mother breastfeeds her baby. It is responsible for establishing a connection between the mother and her baby and mothering behaviors as well. With less oxytocin, mom will feel less affection, bonding, and calmness.
Different tastes – Very often breastfeeding mother uses a wide variety of well-balanced foods during the day, and consequently, her milk has different flavors. In other words, the breastfed baby enjoys different tastes through mom’s breast milk, and she will accept solid foods more efficiently than the formula-fed baby.
Easer digestion – Moms milk is the ‘perfect food’ for a baby which will help her to triple her total body weight until the first birthday. Also, a baby’s digestive system will easily digest protein (casein and whey), lactose, and fat from breast milk. It is the fact that breastfed babies have better digestion and fewer problems with constipation and (or) diarrhea than their formula-fed peers.
Source of minerals and vitamins – Breast milk contains the most minerals and vitamins (except vitamin D) a newborn baby needs. The fact is that U.S. Food and Drug Administration established obligatory regulations to formula companies connected with all the necessary minerals and vitamins (including vitamin D) in milk formulas.
However, formulas can’t entirely match the exact composition of breast milk because mom’s milk is individual and connected with each mother and her own baby. It is just impossible to make a copy of it in the factory. Plus, mom’s breast milk contains essential nutrients that baby formula can’t have.
Convenience – Breast milk is always available and fresh whenever your baby is hungry and no matter where you are at that moment. Plus, you don’t need to waste your time on washing the nipples and warming up bottles in any time during the day and night.
Free – Breast milk is entirely free of charge while the formula price depends on big companies and adds up too quickly. Plus, unless you pump breast milk for your baby, you don’t need to buy expensive nipples, bottles, and other supplies. Don’t forget that breastfed babies are rarely sick, and you will give less money for over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions.
Impact on IQ – Many studies show that breastfeed babies are smarter, have slightly higher IQs, and a higher level of cognitive function than their peers who were formula-fed.
The Positive Sides of the Formula
Some moms choose to feed their babies with formula because of the many benefits this way of feeding offers. Simply said, not all mothers are capable or comfortable of breastfeeding. For some moms it is too stressful and (or) difficult. In some cases, breastfeeding is not recommended for medical reasons. I can just say – don’t panic or feel guilty. If you decide to feed your baby with formula, it is entirely OK!
Flexibility – Mother, who feeds her baby with formula, can leave her baby with a partner while she goes shopping or finishes housework. Formula feeding means that there is no need to schedule your work and obligations, to spend time pumping your milk, or to organize activities connected with the feeding schedule. Plus, formula-feeding moms don’t need to find an appropriate place to feed their babies in public.
Convenience – Formula allows a mom to share the feeding duties because everyone can use a bottle to feed the baby at any time (regardless of whether it is formula or pumped breast milk). Grandparents or your babysitter can feed the baby while you have spare time or need to work. Also, it is an opportunity for your partner to be more involved in the process of feeding the baby. Don’t mention that you will get more night sleep than a breastfeeding mom.
Frequency and time of feedings – Using formula is probably more convenient and more comfortable than breastfeeding. It is actually less digestible than mom’s milk, and in this case, your baby won’t need to eat as often as the breastfed baby.
Diet – Moms who breastfeed their babies can be more relaxed about the food and drink they consume. In fact, there is no danger of transferring inadequate ingredients to the baby through milk at all including chocolates, spicy foods, a cocktail, or a glass of wine.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding – Challenges
As there are a lot of positive reasons for choosing both breast-milk and formula for your baby, there are also limitations to their use. I will list you the most important ones here.
The Negative Sides of Breastfeeding
For some mothers, breastfeeding is natural and relaxed from the very beginning, but the others need time to get used to it. In fact, both mom and her baby need a lot of patience to accept the new breastfeeding routine.
- Personal comfort– It is not rare that new moms can feel pretty uncomfortable while breastfeeding her babies, but most of them overcome this with support, proper education, and a lot of practice.
Frequency and time of breastfeeding– If you want to breastfeed your baby, you should be prepared that it is very demanding regarding time, especially during the first weeks when your baby needs to be fed every two to three hours. Your breastfeeding schedule can be a significant time commitment for you and make it harder for you to work, travel, go shopping, clean up the house, and so on. Keep in mind that breastfed baby needs to eat more often than her peers who take formula because of a baby digest mom’s milk faster than formula.
Pain– Be prepared to feel mild latch-on pain with each feeding during the first seven to ten days. It is normal and usually lasts less than a minute. If the pain continues throughout feedings, or your breasts and (or) nipples are sore, ask a lactation consultant or your doctor for advice. In most cases, the pain is a result of improper technique, but sometimes it can be a warning that something is wrong and that you have an infection.
Diet– If you breastfeed your baby, you will take care of what you eat and drink since all the food will pass to the baby through your milk. Keep in mind that breastfeeding mom should avoid fish because it contains a high percentage of mercury.
Also, you need to avoid alcohol because of its possible occurrence in breast milk. For you as a breastfeeding mom, it is not recommended to intake more than 300 mg of caffeine (two to three cups of coffee on average) to prevent your baby’s irritability and (or) restlessness.
Restrictions– Some moms shouldn’t breastfeed their babies:
- A mom who has HIV or AIDS (the virus can pass through milk to her baby)
- A mom who takes medicines for an ongoing health problem treatment
- Drug or alcohol addicted mom
- A mom with a medical condition which involves chemotherapy
- A mom who had breast surgery
The Negative Sides of Formula
Lack of antibodies – Manufactured formula doesn’t contain the antibodies from colostrum and mom’s breast milk. It is the biggest problem with formula because it can’t provide any protection against diseases and infections that breast milk can.
Invariability – Formula can’t match the complexity of mom’s natural milk and change over time due to the baby’s needs.
Constipation and gases – Formula-fed babies more often suffer from firmer bowel movements and (or) gases than their breastfed peers.
Organization and planning – Formula is not unlimited, always available, or served at the adequate temperature. It demands good organization and careful planning. You can’t forget to buy formula or to avoid buying it because you have no money at that particular moment.
Also, you need to have all the necessary nipples and bottles which are clean, ready to go, and easily accessible at any moment. If you know that you need to feed your baby at least 8-10 times in a 24-hour period, you will have a big problem if you are not well-prepared and entirely organized.
Expense – Let be honest, the formula is costly, starting from the cheapest powdered formula, medium concentrated, and the most expensive ‘ready-to-feed’ or special formulas such as hypoallergenic ones. Be prepared that the cost of basic formula during your baby’s first year of life can run about $1,500.
The most honest is that the decision about the way of baby’s feeding should be on the baby’s mother. She needs to talk to her partner, and they have to discuss all the advantages and disadvantages of each of the possibility. In the end, the mother should decide what is best for her and her baby. Indeed, no one else, including grandparents, relatives, friends, neighbors, especially complete strangers, has rights to interfere in such a decision.