When you have a baby, perhaps one of the biggest decisions you make is how to feed your baby. Even though you only have two choices – breastfeeding or formula – it’s not always an easy decision. How do you decide what’s best for both you and the baby?
Let’s take a closer look at these two options so you can find something that aligns with your values and beliefs.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms
Breastfeeding isn’t just a wonderful choice for your baby’s health. It’s actually a very beneficial choice for you, too. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Free: You might think this is rather obvious, but if you compare the cost of breastfeeding ($0.00) for the first six months, to the average cost of baby formula ($850.00), you can see why this is an attractive quality.
- Releases Oxytocin: By breastfeeding, women release oxytocin into their systems. It’s the love hormone, and it reduces stress in women. This allows women to bond with their babies more easily.
- Weight Loss: During pregnancy, you naturally gain weight. Your breastmilk production draws on these fat stores. That means, the more you breastfeed, the more baby fat you lose.
- Lower Risk of Postpartum Depression: The National Institutes of Health report that women who don’t breastfeed (or don’t breastfeed for very long) can suffer from postpartum depression.
- Natural Contraception: While you breastfeed, your fertility naturally goes on hold for a little while. This is nature’s way of ensuring that you have enough milk to support your new baby. For some women, this allows them to have sex without the risk of becoming pregnant.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
Your breast milk is a powerful gift to give your baby. Here’s why:
- Colostrum: This is the first food your baby receives. It’s a thick, yellowish fluid that prepares your baby’s digestive system for the milk that’s coming. It helps line and protect the baby’s stomach and intestines against invading germs. This, in turn, helps to prevent future food allergies and intolerances from developing.
- Bonding: Breastfeeding is a beautiful opportunity for skin-to-skin contact and bonding. It allows for loving eye contact, and it’s a wonderful way to support the baby’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.
- Natural Antibodies: Because your body develops antibodies based on the viruses and bacteria’s you’re exposed to, your breast milk fills up with these powerful antibodies, too. When a baby drinks breastmilk, they obtain these antibodies, too. This helps your baby develop a strong immunity, and helps prevent ear infections, respiratory illness, and digestive upsets. Plus, there’s less risk for your baby to develop food allergies.
- Perfect Food for First Six Months: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months. Why? Because your breast milk contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals your baby will need.
- Baby Einstein’s: Research shows that children who were breastfed tend to have higher IQ’s, and they perform better in school than children who were never breastfed, or who were breastfed for a shorter period of time.
Why Breastfeeding is Hard
Even though breastfeeding comes with so many wonderful positives, it’s still a big commitment.
For example, during the initial feedings, your breasts can be very sore and painful. Mothers can experience dry and cracked nipples and even risk mastitis.
You’ll also spend a lot of time feeding and pumping, and that can be a huge lifestyle adjustment for first-time moms. But it does get easier as you go. You’ll start to see all the benefits trickling in.
Benefits of Baby Formula for Mom
How you feed your baby is a very personal choice, and at the end of the day, you have to decide what’s best for you and your little one. For some mothers, the convenience and ease of using baby formula is a perfect solution, especially if you have to go back to work shortly after giving birth.
With formula, you know your baby will be well-fed, whether they’re with you, a family member or a caretaker.
The Benefits of Baby Formula for Baby
The first six months and beyond are a busy time in the baby’s life. They’re developing and changing at an incredible rate. So, it’s important that they get all the right nutrients. Baby formulas are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and oftentimes, iron and fatty acids like DHA and ARA.
What’s more, many formulas are designed for particular age groups. This ensures that your baby gets optimal nutrition at every step of the way.
Why You Should Avoid Baby Formula
Baby formulas are fortified with the necessary nutrients, but unfortunately, they can bring complications. Here are a few:
- No Colostrum: There isn’t any colostrum in baby formula. And without this important fluid, the baby misses out on an important source of protection against allergies and inflammatory issues.
- Digestive Issues: Babies who drink baby formula may have a greater risk for developing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis as they get older.
- Dairy and Soy Allergies: Dairy and soy are common allergens, especially if you introduce them to children too early. And because most baby formula is made with either cow’s milk or soy milk, your child may suffer from allergic reactions.
- Harmful Substances in Soy Formulas: While it’s true that manganese is found in both soy formula and breast milk, there’s a big difference: there’s usually 200 times more manganese in soy formula than in breast milk. Unfortunately, some babies can’t metabolize this much manganese and this can lead to serious health issues, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D.
How to Choose the Best Formula
Many mothers use baby formula without any problems or complications, and if you’d like to do the same, here are some simple guidelines to help you choose the best formula for your little one.
- Start with Cow’s Milk Formula: Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says that “most babies will tolerate cow’s milk-based formula very well. They are usually the least expensive, and have variations to help fussy babies or babies with digestive problems.”
However, if you believe your child has milk allergies, or if you or your family members have milk allergies, check with your health care provider about switching to soy milk. Additionally, you can opt for lactose-free formulas, too.
- Use Fortified Formulas: Look for formulas fortified with iron, to prevent anemia. The formula should also contain two important fatty acids, DHA and ARA, to help support healthy brain function.
- Does Your Baby Have Specific Needs? If your baby is premature or has a low birth weight, you can purchase formulas for these needs, too. What’s more, there are formulas designed for babies based on their age. This ensures that your baby gets nourishment perfect for her development stage.
There’s no need to feel stressed or pressured about how you feed your child. By informing yourself about both formula and breastmilk, you can make a decision that perfectly aligns with your beliefs and values.