Ask any veteran mom if they breastfed or formula fed their baby, and you are sure to get a strong opinion on the topic. What you are going to feed your new little one is a big decision to make. Both breastfeeding and formula feeding have unique advantages and disadvantages. Researching the different options can help you make the best decision for you and your family.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Nature has given you everything that you need to help your new baby thrive in breast milk. Breast milk is composed of water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, amino acids and enzymes. The exact composition of breast milk changes throughout the day and can vary in flavor depending on what you eat.
When you breastfeed your baby, both you and your new little one reap the benefits. These benefits include:
- Breastmilk is full of antibodies that can strengthen your baby’s immune system and help keep them from getting sick
- Breastmilk has the perfect balance of nutrients that your baby needs as he or she grows
- Breastmilk is easily digestible and can reduce your baby’s risk of having gas or constipation
- Breastmilk is always readily available and warm, requiring no preparation
- Breastfed babies have a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), diabetes and respiratory problems
- Breastfeeding can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis
- Because breastfeeding burns calories, it can help you to lose the weight gained during pregnancy more efficiently
Benefits of Formula Feeding
Most formula is made from cow’s milk, which has been broken down and combined with vitamins and minerals in order to mimic breast milk. For babies allergic to cow’s milk or lactose, there are many different formula varieties that are made from soy protein. Though the exact composition varies depending on the brand and type of formula purchased, most formula is composed of a balance of fat, protein, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals. It can be purchased ready-to-eat, which means that the water has already been added, or in powdered form that requires being mixed with water before being fed to your baby.
Many moms choose to formula feed their infants because the benefits of formula feeding work better for their situation. These benefits include:
- Allows other people to feed your little one, allowing them to bond with your baby and give you a break
- You may need to feed your baby less often as formula is digested slower than breast milk by babies
- It can save you time from having to nurse or pump
- You won’t have to worry about not eating certain foods (such as chocolate or spicy foods) that can irritate babies who drink breast milk
- You will be able to get better rest while your partner or family member helps feed the baby at night
What the Experts Say
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that breast milk is the best nutrition for babies and recommends only breast milk for the first six months of life. After six months, babies should begin eating solid foods and continue to be breastfed until they are one to two years of age.
Most moms are able to breastfeed successfully with education, help and support. For those who aren’t, formula is a perfectly healthy option that will help your little one grow and thrive.
Breast Pumping: The Best of Both Worlds
If you want to breastfeed your little one but are worried about what to do when you return to work or when you are away from your baby, consider breast pumping. Pumping offers the best of both breastfeeding and formula feeding by combining the health benefits of breast milk with the convenience of formula feeding.
By pumping for a few minutes each time after you nurse your little one, you can build up a supply of breast milk in your freezer to use while you are out. Once you return to work, take the time to pump one to two times during the day and store the milk in a cooler until you reach home. Studies show that breastfeeding moms who pump at work have less sick days and decreased turnover. Pumping can help ease any “mom guilt” you may have about returning to work as you continue to provide breast milk for your baby.
Every mom and every baby are different. Though you are sure to get a variety of opinions from your family members, friends and strangers about what to feed your baby, you are ultimately responsible for this decision. As you decide, be reassured that whatever you choose, both choices will provide your little one the nutrition necessary for all of the growing and learning that your baby will do their first year.