Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

As a new parent, you have many important decisions to make. One is to choose whether to breastfeed your baby or bottle feed using infant formula.

Health experts agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for both mom and baby. They recommend that babies feed only on breast milk for the first 6 months, and then continue to have breast milk as a main part of their diet until they are at least 1 and better 2 years old.

There are very few health problems that make breastfeeding not possible. There are other reasons women are unable to breastfeed, but with good support and knowledge, most of these can be overcome.

Here are some things to consider when deciding about breastfeeding. The decision about how to feed your baby is a personal one, and only you can decide what is best for you and your family.

Deciding to feed your baby breast milk or formula is a personal matter. If you do choose formula, it's designed to be a nutritional source of food for infants. Let's talk about infant formula. A variety of formulas are available for infants younger than 12 months old. Infant formulas vary in nutrients, calorie count, taste, ability to be digested, and cost. Standard milk-based formulas are made with cow's milk protein that has been changed to be more like breast milk. These formulas contain lactose and minerals from cow's milk, along with vegetable oils, minerals, and vitamins. Soy-based formulas are made using soy proteins. These formulas are useful when parents do not want their child to eat animal protein, or the child has a rare metabolic problem and can't tolerate other formulas. Also, soy formulas do not contain lactose. Other lactose-free formulas are available to help babies with lactose problems. Hypoallergenic formulas may be helpful for babies who have true allergies to milk protein. They can also help babies with skin rashes. One caveat you'll pay a lot more for them. Your baby's doctor may recommend other special formulas. Reflux formulas are pre-thickened with rice starch. They can help babies with reflux problems who are not gaining weight. Formulas for premature and low-birth weight infants have extra calories and minerals. Other special formulas are available for babies with heart disease and digestion problems. So, what's the best way to take care of infant formula and bottles? You'll need to clean bottles and nipples with soap, then for very young babies boil them in a covered pan for 10 minutes. Once the bottles are cooled, you can make enough formula to last 24 hours. Make it exactly as the package directs you to. Once you make formula, store it in your refrigerator in individual bottles. During the first month, your baby may need at least 8 bottles of formula a day. When it's time to feed your baby, warm the formula slowly in hot water. Always test the temperature of the formula before feeding your baby. Hold your child close to you and make eye contact. Hold the bottle so the nipple and neck of the bottle are always filled with liquid. This helps prevent your child from swallowing air, which can cause gas and vomiting. Once you're finished feeding your baby, throw away any formula left in the bottle. Children should get breast milk or formula at least throughout the first year. This is the centerpiece of infant nutrition.

How you feed your baby is a personal decision, but if you breastfeed you're choosing to give your child a natural, nutritional food source that can benefit you AND your baby. Let's talk about breastfeeding. Many women ask me, What's so good about breastfeeding? Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby. It contains just the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And they vary over time within each feeding and over the months as your baby grows, tailored. Breast milk also gives your baby the digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins, hormones and flavors they need. Plus your baby gets antibodies and other immune factors from YOU that can help your baby resist some infections. Infants who breastfeed are less likely to have allergies, ear infections, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, skin problems, stomach or intestinal infections...and are also less likely to experience wheezing, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Breastfeeding helps mom too! You form a unique bond with your baby. You might lose pregnancy weight faster and, you have a lower risk of breast cancer, some types of ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis. Your baby will need to be fed a lot, often nearly around the clock during the first few weeks after birth. It's perfectly normal. Some mothers find that bringing the baby in bed for feedings at night or placing a bassinet within reach, allows them to meet the child's needs while losing minimal rest. During the day, nap after feedings if you can. If you need to return to work soon after your baby is born, or you're a stay-at-home mom that needs some time to herself, there are plenty of pumping and storage systems available that let you continue to breastfeed your baby as long as you want. Breastfeeding goes smoothly for most people, once mother and baby get the hang of it. For others, it may take time and practice. If you run into any problems, contact a lactation consultant, a person who specializes in breastfeeding.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Preparing to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding and Work

Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems

Health and Safety Issues

Bottle Feeding Your Baby