Expectant mothers often fret over whether they should breastfeed or rely on bottled formula for their baby’s nutrition. Although whether or not to breastfeed is a parent’s decision, it cannot be denied that breastfeeding has many advantages that bottle feeding does not offer. It is recommended that breastfeeding be the choice of nutrition for infants 0 to 12 month old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) all unanimously recommend breastfeeding and breast milk instead of bottle feeding. Although there may be conditions that make bottle feeding more attractive, sticking to natural means is recommended when possible.
For one, breast milk is the perfect form of nutrition for newborns. This is because breast milk is naturally meant to meet the needs of human offspring. It is hard to find real challenges to the wisdom of nature. Commercial baby formula, while comprehensive and backed by the latest science has to offer, will lack some of the benefits breast milk offers.
Breastfeeding: The Advantages
1. Breast milk, aside from being a complete infant nutrition, also contains antibodies that help children develop immunity against illnesses such as infections, diarrhea, respiratory problems, and meningitis. Bottle-fed children usually exhibit lower immunity against these illnesses. Moreover, breast-fed children are less prone to developing allergies. This is one of the strongest reasons against bottle feeding.
Studies have shown that breast-fed infants are hospitalized less and are less sickly than their bottle-fed counterparts. Breast-fed babies show lower incidences of ear infections, constipation, diarrhea, sudden infant death syndrome.
Breast milk is still being studied closely by scientists. Breast milk seems to contain substances that are yet unidentified, and hard to produce. This leads the scientists to conclude that breast milk is indeed much more complex than first thought. Although the FDA requires formula makers to include all the known breast milk nutrients in their milk foods, formula makers still have a long way — although ever improving — to go to effectively imitate breast milk.
2. Breast milk is free and requires no preparation; it could even save you money. It doesn’t require pre-heating and is always available on tap. Breast-fed infants don’t get sick as often as their bottle-fed counterparts. This results in great savings. Bottled milk costs a lot. You could find yourself saving a few thousand dollars a year in formula and medical expenses. This alone could be a great reason to choose breastfeeding instead of bottle feeding.
3. Smarter Babies. Studies have shown that breast-fed babies have 5 to 10 more IQ points than those that are bottle-fed exclusively for the first six months of their life. Not only are these children smarter, they are healthier to boot. This is due to the completeness of the composition of breast milk resulting in earlier and better development of babies’ brains.
4. Less Prone to Obesity. Breast-fed children are observed to be less prone to overeating and obesity. The special formulation of breast milk allows for the proper regulation of appetite and metabolism.
5. Skin-to-skin contact. Children that are breast-fed have better emotional adjustment than those that are not. This is due to the healing wonders of touch. Babies are also better attached to their mothers as a result. The intimacy of the activity also does wonder for the emotional health of both the mother and the child.
6. Breast milk is easier to digest and is less likely to cause constipation or diarrhea. The formula of breast milk is also easier to digest, which usually means babies feed more. Breastfeeding mothers will have to be prepared to breast-feed every 3 hours or so.
Although breast-feeding is still best for babies, baby formulas have been successful in at least narrowing the gap. However, breast-feeding is still the way to go for newborn infants up to one or two years, and should be the only choice unless the mother is suffering from any condition that prevents her from doing so. Some mothers claim they do not produce enough milk and this may be the case. However, consult with your doctor to see if anything can be done to allow breast-feeding in the immediate future.
Ultimately, choosing whether to breast-feed or bottle-feed is strictly the decision of the mother. It is recommended, however, that when possible mothers breast-feed their children instead.