The ability to give birth and become a mother is one of the greatest gifts for many women. In turn, the ability to provide that new life with food and nutrition, is also a tremendous gift. Many new mothers want to breastfeed, and most attempt to make it work. However, within only three months of giving birth, more than two-thirds of breastfeeding mothers begin using formula. By six months postpartum, more than half of mothers give up on breastfeeding, and mothers who breastfeed one-year-olds or toddlers are very rare. Also, new mothers aged 20-29 are much less likely to ever breastfeed compared to mothers who are 30 or over.
BREAST IS BEST
Health experts, though, believe that breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. In fact, it is considered nature’s perfect baby food. It contains immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that have yet to be replicated in totality by scientists. Many health organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO), all recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for babies. The AAP recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. After that, breastfeeding is still encouraged until at least 12 months.
Despite the fact that it is highly recommended, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one for new mothers. To help make your decision easier, and if you and your baby are willing, following is a list of advantages to breastfeeding:
BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING FOR BABY
Considered “liquid gold,” colostrum is the deep yellow-colored, thick milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. It is incredibly rich in nutrients and antibodies that help protect your baby from infections. It also helps your newborn’s digestive system to function properly.
Changing Composition of Breast Milk
By the third to fifth day after delivery, colostrum changes to mature milk. This milk is exactly what your baby needs – the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to help fuel rapid growth. It is also easily digested, allowing your baby to eat more frequently and have less bouts of diarrhea and constipation.
Disease and Illness Protection
The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk help protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby’s growing needs. Breastfed babies also have a better antibody response to vaccines and less hospitalizations than formula-fed babies. Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of:
- Asthma and allergies
- Childhood leukemia
- Childhood obesity
- Ear infections
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Respiratory infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Type 2 diabetes
The fatty acids in breast milk are thought to be brain boosters. A study conducted by Lancet Global Health journal concluded that a “longer duration of breastfeeding is linked with increased intelligence in adulthood, longer schooling and higher adult learning.”
BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING FOR MOTHER
Lowers Physical Health Risks
Breastfeeding has shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. It also lessens the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Lowers Mental Health Risks
When inflammation levels in a woman’s body are high, depression is more likely to occur. Breastfeeding causes an anti-inflammatory response in the body, which lowers a mother’s risk of depression. Also, a study by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D. reported that, “Breastfeeding mothers reported longer total sleep time, more daily energy, and better physical health than their formula- or mixed-feeding counterparts. They also reported lower rates of depression.”
Helps You Return to Pre-Pregnancy Size
Nursing mothers tend to have an easier time losing pregnancy weight in a healthy way. Milk production alone burns about 300-500 calories a day. Also, breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce, and if you feed your baby about 20 ounces a day, you will burn another 400 calories. Breastfeeding also triggers your uterus to return to pre-pregnancy size – occurring at about 6 weeks postpartum as opposed to 10 weeks when not nursing.
When you breastfeed your baby exclusively, ovulation will be delayed, which means menstruation will be delayed. Breastfeeding releases prolactin in your body which stops ovulation. It can take six months to a year for your period to return. So, if you are not ovulating, breastfeeding can also give you a form of natural birth control. Just remember, it’s not as reliable as other forms.
The cost of formula can range anywhere from $1,600 to close to $6,000 a year, and since breastfeeding is basically free, that’s a big savings!
It may seem like it takes more effort at first, but it can make your life easier once you and your baby are in a good routine. Breast milk is always fresh and available any time your baby needs it. There are no last-minute runs to the store for formula, no equipment to sterilize and no bottles to fill and warm in the middle of the night.
BENEFIT OF BREASTFEEDING FOR MOTHER AND BABY
Bottle-fed babies will definitely form bonds with their parents, but the skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding creates a unique emotional bond. The physical contact is comforting to a newborn, making them feel more secure and warm. While nursing, baby and mom are able to exchange looks, smiles, coos and cuddles.
Most new mothers claim that nursing is something incredibly special that is shared between themselves and their baby. The skin-to-skin contact boosts a mom’s oxytocin level, a hormone that helps breast milk flow and promotes calmness. It is also empowering for a mother to realize that their baby is growing and thriving on their milk alone.
BREASTFEEDING CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS
While breastfeeding can feel natural and comfortable for many new mothers, it may take a while to get used to for others. Also, because of different concerns and/or challenges, breastfeeding may not even be an option. Common issues can include:
At first, many new moms may feel strange or uncomfortable with breastfeeding. The pain from latching on is also a challenge. While it is normal for the first week or so, if it continues beyond that and happens throughout the entire feeding, then you should consult a lactation expert or see your doctor in case of infection.
Breastfeeding requires a huge time commitment from moms, especially when newborns are feeding more often. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, newborns may need to nurse every 1 to 3 hours. This breastfeeding schedule (or even the need to pump breast milk) makes it very difficult for some mothers to work, run errands or travel.
When you breastfeed, you need to be conscious of what you eat and drink, since they can be passed on to your baby through your milk. For example, you should not eat fish high in mercury. You also need to watch your alcohol and caffeine consumption. If you were to have a glass of alcohol, waiting at least 2 hours before breastfeeding is advised. Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than the equivalent of 1-3 cups of coffee (about 300mg or less) to avoid restlessness and irritability in your baby.
If you are under the care of a doctor for conditions such as HIV or cancer, the medicines you take can make breastfeeding unsafe. Also, if you have had any type of breast surgery your milk supply may be compromised.
BENEFITS OF FORMULA FEEDING
Whether it’s for personal, health or medical reasons, you may either choose to or need to formula-feed your baby. Commercially prepared infant formulas provide a nutritious alternative, and even contain some vitamins and nutrients that breastfed babies don’t get from breast milk. And recent breakthroughs in scientific research are narrowing the gap between formula and breast milk. Oligosaccharides, which are nature’s prebiotic that support overall gut and immune system health, are found naturally in breast milk. Scientists have been able to add the specific oligosaccharide, 2’-FL HMO, to certain infant formulas, which help to bring them closer to breast milk than ever before.
For moms who formula-feed, the benefits include:
Bottles can be fed by either parent or a grandparent, older sibling or other caregiver. This allows you, as a new mom, to share the feeding duties and allow other family members to feel more involved and bond with your newborn.
With formula feeding, there’s no need to pump or schedule obligations around the baby’s feeding schedule. You also don’t need to search for a private place to nurse in public, and you are able to leave the baby in the care of others more often.
Frequency of Feedings
Formula is less digestible than breast milk. Because of this, formula-fed babies stay fuller longer and usually need to eat less often than breastfed babies.
If you choose to formula-feed your baby, you are freer to eat and drink anything that you desire. There is no fear of adverse effects from food ingredients, caffeine or alcohol.
FORMULA FEEDING CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS
Just as with breastfeeding, there are questions and concerns that come along with formula-feeding your baby:
While scientists have made breakthroughs in creating infant formulas that come closer to the properties contained in breast milk, they still can’t provide your baby with the added protection against infection and illness that breast milk provides. Commercial formulas also can’t duplicate the complexity of breast milk, which changes as your baby’s needs change.
Planning and Organization
When you breast feed, the supply is always available and unlimited and it’s served at the proper temperature. Formula feeding requires more planning and organization. You need to make sure that you always have formula and supplies on hand. Enough bottles and nipples also need to be sanitized and ready to go. With about 8-10 feedings in a 24-hour period, it’s easy to get very overwhelmed if you are not prepared.
Formula-feeding can be costly. The formula alone is the most expensive, costing more than $1,500 a year for powdered form (concentrated, ready-to-eat and specialty formulas can be much more expensive). There is also the cost of supplies such as bottles, bottle cleaners and nipples to take into account.
CHOOSING TO BREASTFEED OR FORMULA-FEED
Deciding how you feed your baby can be a difficult decision. Ultimately, the choice is yours and you will know what is right when your baby arrives.
While you’re weighing the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. Your healthcare providers can give you more information about your options and help you make the best decision for you, your family and your beautiful, new baby.
If you loved this article about the Advantages of Breastfeeding, then you would enjoy reading The Best Essential Oils for Morning Sickness during Pregnancy.