Breast or bottle? Which will you choose?

March 22, 2018 | by Anita Krajecki, RNC-LRN
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

When comparing breast milk to formula, breast milk wins almost every time. Breast milk provides the specific nutrients that babies need to grow, both in size and maturity. Also, for most babies, especially premature babies, formula (made from cow’s milk) is harder to digest than breast milk.

Let’s not forget another important point. When babies are born, they aren’t as able to fight illness-causing germs. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect babies from illnesses to which the mother is immune, and also those to which she has been exposed.

Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of:

  • Asthma
  • Childhood obesity
  • Ear infections
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (a disease that affects the GI tract in premature babies)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Leukemia (during childhood)

Moms benefit from breastfeeding too. It can help lower your risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes – A new study reports that breastfeeding may reduce a woman’s risk for type 2 diabetes. The longer a woman breastfed, the lower the risk.
  • Certain types of breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services outlines more benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Your breastmilk changes to meet your baby's needs. Researchers think that a baby's saliva transfers chemicals to a mother's body through breastfeeding. These chemicals help a mother's body create breastmilk that meets the baby's changing needs.
  • Life can be easier for you when you breastfeed. Breastfeeding can make your life easier once you and your baby settle into a good routine. You do not have to buy and mix formula, or sterilize bottles. You can satisfy your baby's hunger right away.
  • Not breastfeeding costs money. Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year. Breastfed babies may also be sick less often, which can help keep health costs lower.
  • Breastfeeding keeps mother and baby close. Physical contact is important to newborns. It helps them feel more secure and comforted. Mothers also benefit from this closeness. The skin-to-skin contact boosts a mom’s oxytocin levels, which is calming.

It’s no doubt that breast milk helps protect babies from illness. Unfortunately, not all new moms who want to breastfeed are able to. Your baby may need formula if you have a health problem that won't allow you to breastfeed. Also, some babies are born unable to tolerate milk of any kind (although it’s rare). In these situations, formula feeding can save lives.

Then there are about two-thirds of nursing mothers who try to breastfeed but are unable to stick with it for as long as they intended. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not able to breastfeed. Infant formula is a healthy alternative and provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Some women who have issues breastfeeding but still want their baby to benefit from breast milk will exclusively pump. More research is needed to determine if pumping imparts the same benefits as breastfeeding.

If you decide to give it a try, know that breastfeeding can be challenging, especially in the early days. A lactation consultant can teach you how to feed your baby, and help with any breastfeeding problems, such as latching difficulties, painful nursing, low milk production and return-to-work issues.

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