The World Health Organization (WHO) — recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for babies. Breastfeeding helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions. It is recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond that, breastfeeding is encouraged until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing.
Although experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.
For mothers who are unable to breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. Formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Some mothers worry that if they don’t breastfeed, they won’t bond with their baby. But the truth is, loving mothers will always create a special bond with their children. And feeding — no matter how — is a great time to strengthen that bond.
The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby.
Here are some of the many benefits of breastfeeding:
- Fighting infections and other conditions.Breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. During breastfeeding, antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from a mother to her baby and strengthen the immune system. Breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies.
- Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight children and less likely to get diabetes in childhood.
- Nutrition and ease of digestion.Breastmilk is a living fluid and every mum’s milk is tailor-made for her own baby ; often called the “perfect food” for a human baby’s digestive system, breast milk’s components — lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat — are easily digested by a newborn.
- Breast milk doesn’t cost anything. Since breastfed babies are less likely to be sick that may mean they make fewer trips to the doctor’s office, and less money are paid for drugs.
- Different tastes.Nursing mothers are advised to eat a wide variety of well-balanced foods and this introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers’ breast milk, which has different flavors depending on what their mothers have eaten. By tasting the foods of their “culture,” breastfed infants more easily accept solid foods.
- Breast milk is always fresh and available whether you’re home or out and about.
- Smarter babies.Some studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed have slightly higher IQs than children who were formula fed. (I personally don’t believe this as I know kids who weren’t breast fed at all and have one of the highest IQs)
- “Skin-to-skin” contact.Many nursing mothers really enjoy the experience of bonding so closely with their babies and the skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant as expressed by some nursing mothers.
- Beneficial for mom, too. Breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Also, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and also may help decrease the risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding can be easy from the get-go for some mothers, but take a while to get used to for others. Moms and babies need plenty of patience to get used to the routine of breastfeeding.
Common concerns of new moms, especially during the first few weeks and months, may include:
- Personal comfort.Initially, many moms feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding. But with proper education, support, and practice, most moms overcome this.
- Latch-on pain is normal for the first week to 10 days, and should last less than a minute with each feeding. But if breastfeeding hurts throughout feedings, or if their nipples and/or breasts are sore, it’s a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to get help from a lactation consultant or their doctor. Many times, it’s just a matter of using the proper technique, but sometimes pain can mean that something else is going on, like an infection.
- Time and frequency of feedings.Breastfeeding requires a big time commitment from mothers, especially in the beginning, when babies feed often. A breastfeeding schedule or the need to pump breast milk during the day can make it harder for some moms to work, run errands, or travel. And breastfed babies do need to eat more often than babies who take formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This means mom may find herself in demand every 2 or 3 hours (maybe more, maybe less) in the first few weeks.
- Women who are breastfeeding need to be aware of what they eat and drink, since these can be passed to the baby through the breast milk. Just like during pregnancy, breastfeeding women should not eat fish that are high in mercury and limit consumption of lower mercury fish. If a mom drinks alcohol, a small amount can pass to the baby through breast milk.
- Maternal medical conditions, medicines, and breast surgery. Medical conditions such as HIV or AIDS or those that involve chemotherapy or treatment with certain medicines can make breastfeeding unsafe. A woman should check with her doctor or a lactation consultant if she’s unsure if she should breastfeed with a specific condition. Women should always check with the doctor about the safety of taking medicines while breastfeeding, including over-the-counter and herbal medicines.
Mothers who’ve had breast surgery, such as a reduction, may have difficulty with their milk supply if their milk ducts have been severed. In this situation, a woman should to talk to her doctor about her concerns and work with a lactation specialist.
Credit: Kids Health – http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breast-bottle-feeding.html and https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/why-breastfeed