Breast or Bottle?

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Diba Tillery, RN, BSN

Choosing to breast feed or bottle feed (or to use a combination of both) is a personal decision which every mom and soon-to-be mom must face. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to both. The method of feeding chosen should be one that incorporates personal views, health, emotional and physical well-being, and promotes a happy and healthy home for parents, infants, and siblings.

Breastfeeding: The Advantages

Breastmilk is the most ideal food for your baby and is cost-effective, readily available, and easy to digest. The composition of human breastmilk is unique to each individual and provides your growing baby with all the nutritional components needed during growth and development. Unlike formula, breastmilk provides your baby with immunoglobulins which help protect your baby against illnesses and potential allergies. Research suggests that breastfed infants are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and cancer1 than their formula fed counterparts.

Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to your baby, but to you as well. Breastfeeding releases hormones which help the uterus shrink back to its pre-pregnancy state, provide protection against pregnancy, and enhance the mother-infant bonding experience. Most breastfeeding moms find that they loose weight easier and faster than non-breastfeeding moms. Research also indicates that breastfeeding can help decrease the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, and postpartum depression1.

Breastfeeding: The Disadvantages

Initially, breastfeeding can be awkward, uncomfortable, and painful for some moms. With practice and support, these feelings usually subside quickly and breastfeeding becomes second nature. Breastfeeding moms may feel overwhelmed and over-tired in the first couple of weeks. Once good breastfeeding has been established, other family members can help mom by feeding the baby expressed (pumped) breastmilk. Issues that may arise and cause a breastfeeding mom discomfort include mastitis (infection of the breast), sore nipples, cracked nipples, and engorgement. Proper latch and good breast care can avoid most of these issues.

Breastfeeding moms need to pay close attention to their diet. Nursing moms require an additional 500 calories per day, plenty of fluids, and lots of rest to ensure adequate breastmilk production. Nursing mothers of multiples require an additional 500 calories per day per child. Caffeine and alcohol should be limited since both of these can pass into the breastmilk. Nursing moms should also avoid fish high in mercury since high levels can be harmful to a baby's developing brain.

Bottle Feeding: The Advantages

Not every mom has the desire or the ability to breastfeed her newborn. For these moms, formula provides a suitable alternative. Formula manufacturers, which are regulated by the FDA, are constantly looking to improve the nutritional composition of formula by adding nutrients that are normally found in breastmilk. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) are a prime example and have been added for healthy brain and eye development. Some have also added probiotics to support a healthy immune and digestive system.

Bottle feeding gives mom more freedom and rest. The baby can be fed by dad, other family members, or friends. This can be immensely helpful for nighttime feedings while also enhancing the bonding experience for those involved. Since formula takes longer to digest, infants tend to be satisfied for longer periods of time which allows for more rest for mom. Finally, those moms who bottle feed do not have to restrict their diet.

Bottle Feeding: The Disadvantages

Formula can be expensive and preparation can be time consuming. Depending on the type of formula used and the amount consumed, formula cost alone can exceed $1500 in the first year! Boiling water for formula preparation, sterilizing bottles and nipples, and mixing the formula are all additional work for parents who already have their hands full. Although formula attempts to replicate breastmilk, essential antibodies, for immunity and protection against illnesses, are absent. Finally, in previous years, there has been multiple formula recalls due to contamination and other safety and health concerns.

In conclusion, there are many factors to consider when choosing whether to breast feed or bottle feed. Educating yourself on both topics, analyzing your (and your partner's) personal beliefs, and discussing the issue with your healthcare provider will assist you in making the best decision for you, your baby, and your family.

Sources Cited Source:

1. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM). ABM Statements: Position on Breastfeeding. 2008.

http://www.bfmed.org/Media/Files/Documents/pdf/ABM%20Position%20Statement%20(12-2008).pdf (Accessed April 6, 2009).

References:

The Nursing Mother's Companion. Huggins, K. (2005)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Womenshealth.gov

U.S. Food andDrug Administration

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