You are a new mother or are anticipating the birth of your child. As you prepare for your baby's arrival, there may be many questions you may have. One might be: Should I breastfeed?
Here are some points to consider when deciding to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
Proper nourishment—Breast milk contains almost all of the
nourishment that babies need during their first 6 months of
supplementation is needed because breast milk is low in this vitamin. Supplementation with vitamin D will need to be continued until your baby is getting enough vitamin D from other sources, such as vitamin D-fortified formula or sunlight. Talk to your baby's doctor before exposing them to sunlight. Overexposure is harmful. Starting at age 4 months, your baby will also need an
supplement until they start getting enough iron from food sources, like infant cereal. If your baby is
premature, they will likely need to take iron starting at 1 month of age.
Immunity boost—Breast milk contains substances not found in formula that help
protect babies from illness. These substances include antibodies, immunoglobulins, active
enzymes, and hormones.
Fewer illnesses—Compared with bottlefed infants,
breastfed infants are less likely to develop:
Ear infectionsInfections of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tractsDiarrhea
Possible protection against certain conditions—Breastfed infants may have some protection against
sudden infant death syndrome,
type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes,
obesity, asthma, eczema, and leukemia.
Boost to brain development—The nutrients found in breastmilk enhance how your baby's brain develops. Breastfeeding may even have a positive impact on your child's IQ and school performance.Easy digestion—Breast milk is easier for babies to
digest.Bonding—The skin-to-skin contact involved in
breastfeeding can enhance bonding between mother and baby.Jaw development—Sucking at the breast promotes good jaw
development. It is harder to get milk from the breast than from a
Women who breastfeed their babies experience the following
health benefits: Less postpartum bleedingMore rapid shrinkage of the uterus to pre-pregnancy sizeQuicker return to pre-pregnancy weight—Milk production
burns calories.Slower return of menstrual cycles
Possible reduced risk of:
menopause—Nursing a baby for at least 3 months may cause protective changes
in breast cells.
Ovarian cancerType 2 diabetesPostpartum depression
Both parents will likely appreciate the convenience of
breastfeeding, including: Breast milk is available, sterile, and free.There is no formula to buy, measure, and mix.There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize. Plus, you don't need to carry these and formula wherever you go.
Stress for mom—You are the sole provider
of nutrition for your baby, which can be very demanding and
exhausting for some women. However, once a pattern is established, other family
members can give you a break by feeding the baby a bottle of breast
milk that has been pumped and stored in the refrigerator or
freezer.Slow start—You may have difficulty getting the baby
to properly latch onto the breast.
Possible pain—Breastfeeding can be painful. You may have sore
nipples, clogged milk ducts,
Medication precautions—Some medications can pass through the breast milk to your baby and may not be safe. Drugs can also interfere with how much milk you produce. Talk to you healthcare provider before taking prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbs and supplements.
If you are unsure as to whether you want to breastfeed, you can
try it for a few weeks and switch if it does not work out. Any
amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for the baby. Once bottlefeeding is started, though, it is difficult to switch back to the
Proper nutrition—Commercially prepared formulas (which
are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration) supply the appropriate combinations of
proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins to meet a baby's nutritional
requirements; supplements are not usually necessary. But, if your baby is not eating enough vitamin D fortified formula, a supplement may be needed.Bonding—Although there is no skin-to-skin contact,
cuddling while feeding can enhance bonding.Less dependence on you—Anyone can feed the baby. This makes it easier if you work
or if you cannot or do not want to be the sole provider of the milk.
The possibility of allergy—Cow's milk formulas contain a
different type of protein than breast milk, and some infants may be
allergic to it or have trouble digesting it. These babies can be
given soy milk formula, although some may be allergic to soy
protein, too, and would require a hydrolyzed formula.A lot of preparation—Bottlefeeding requires a lot of
organization and preparation; you will need to have enough
formula on hand and have bottles and nipples clean and ready.A significant expense—In today's economic climate, many foods, including formula can be costly.Freshness not guaranteed—Formula can go bad, so you will
need to check expiration dates and avoid damaged containers.
Breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/breastfeedingandbottle.html. Updated August 2015. Accessed December 13, 2016.
Casey CF, Slawson DC, Neal LR. Vitamin D supplementation in infants, children, and adolescents. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(6):745-748.
Section on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):827-841.
Why breastfeeding is important. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-benefits.html. Updated July 21, 2014. Accessed December 13, 2016.
3/18/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115517/Breastfeeding: Martin RM, Patel R, Kramer MS, et al. Effects of promoting longer-term and exclusive breastfeeding on adiposity and insulin-like growth factor-I at age 11.5 years: a randomized trial.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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