If you are an expectant mother, there are many important decisions to make before the birth of your child. One of those decisions can be whether you will breastfeed, or provide your child with formula after his birth. There are many benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it be done exclusively for at least the first six months of your baby’s life. It is then recommended that it be continued up to one year, after the introduction of solid foods at around six months of age.
But what if I need to feed my baby formula? Does that make me a bad mother?
Mothers should never feel like they are substandard if they need to or choose to formula feed, for whatever reason. The old saying, “Never judge someone unless you’ve walked a mile in her shoes,” certainly holds true.
Formulas have come a long way, and more closely mimic breast milk than they ever did in past years. Infant formulas offer complete nutrition for your baby, and if you cuddle your baby during every feeding, it can still provide a wonderful bonding experience for you and your baby.
So if baby formula is adequate, why even consider breastfeeding?
Here is a list of reasons why breastfeeding is still recommended over formula:
1. Breast milk contains live antibodies (immunoglobulins)
* This is the main ingredient missing in infant formulas. When the mother is exposed to germs, her body produces antibodies to fight the potential infection-causing organisms. These antibodies are then passed along to her infant in her breast milk, providing protection against potential illnesses and diseases.
2. Breastfeeding is free while formula is very expensive
* Because formula can be very expensive, some parents have been known to give their infants plain cow’s milk or other milk alternatives at a much earlier age than recommended. Although this is adequate for a calf, it does not contain the necessary vitamins and minerals to encourage healthy development and growth in an infant. In addition, this could cause allergic reactions, and a number of other health problems.
* On the other hand, breast milk is made specifically for human babies, and is always free and on tap.
3. Breast milk is “smart”
* Breast milk changes its composition over the course of your baby’s growth and development.
* Colostrum, for example, is the first milk that is produced by your breasts during pregnancy and then for the first few days after your baby’s birth. It is very high in protein as well as antibodies, which give your baby’s immature immune system a “boost” of protection. It also acts as a natural laxative for your baby’s first bowel movements.
* Colostrum is replaced by transitional breast milk approximately three to four days after you give birth, and lasts for a couple of weeks.
* Mature breast milk comes in last. It is composed of one kind of milk that has two different compositions:
a) Foremilk – The baby drinks this watery, thin milk first during a nursing session. It helps hydrate the baby, and contains more lactose and less fat. The lactose is important for energy production in the infant.
b) Hindmilk – The baby gets this higher-fat content milk as the nursing session continues. This is what is important for the baby’s growth.
In summary, breast milk is still the recommended nutrition for babies. A few reasons why you may want to consider breastfeeding over formula feeding have been provided. Although not discussed above, there are many other reasons why breastfeeding is beneficial including breast milk is more digestible, and breastfeeding also protects you against certain cancers. No matter what decision you make – breastfeeding or formula – know that it has to be right for you and your situation. Only you can make that decision.