Breast vs. Formula for Feeding Your Baby
Many new mothers struggle with the decision to breastfeed or use formula to feed their new baby. Here's some guidance to help you choose what's right for you.
Breast milk is the perfect food for infants, with numerous advantages over baby formula, especially in the first four months or so. Here are a few reasons:
- It's always available.
- It's free.
- It contains active infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies that give increased protection against infections in the first months of baby's life, when these infections can be the most serious.
- It contains the perfect proportion of nutrients that your baby needs, including protein, carbohydrates, fat, and calcium.
- It is easily digestible.
- It may protect against allergies and asthma in the future.
- It may decrease a baby's risk of obesity in the future.
- It contains some fatty acids that promote brain development.
Breastfeeding can help new mothers lose weight more easily.
- It delays menstruation so that new mothers can retain iron.
- It decreases mom’s risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression.
Additionally, there probably are other beneficial components of breast milk that have yet to be discovered and so have not been added to formula mixtures.
With all these advantages of breast milk, should you feel guilty if you choose not to breastfeed? No, and here's why:
- Infant formulas have gotten better and better at matching the ingredients and their proportions to that of human milk (although formula lacks antibodies that fight against infection).
- While breastfed babies may have relatively fewer infections, the vast majority of infants won't get a serious infection in the first months whether breast- or formula-fed.
- It provides more flexibility; fathers and siblings can feed the baby, providing new moms with a much-needed break.
A happy, unstressed mother is the best mother. If you feel that bottle feeding with formula best fits your needs, then it's the best for meeting your baby's needs, as well.
Some experts recommend at least giving breastfeeding a try. Once breastfeeding is established, the benefits can occur even if you breastfeed only once or twice a day. If you're having trouble breastfeeding, ask your health care provider to recommend a lactation consultant.