Tips for breast-feeding success
Along with choosing your baby’s name and the nursery colors, pregnant women face another personal choice: whether to breast-feed or bottle-feed their babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. Beyond that, they encourage breast-feeding until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing. Following are some of the issues to consider when making the choice to breast-feed or bottle-feed.
Breast over bottle: benefit for moms
Breast-feeding creates a surge of hormones in your body, which helps your uterus to contract and shrink to its pre-pregnant size. Breast-feeding may also:
Delay the return of your periods, giving you a break from that “time of the month.” This may not always be the case, so don’t count on it as a birth control method. Decrease rates of breast and ovarian cancers. Reduce your risk of post partum depression. Lower your risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis in menopause. Some studies hint at this decreased risk, though more research is needed. Create a strong mother-baby bond. The cuddling, skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact during breast-feeding can create a wonderful bond between you and your baby. Require less maintenance. There are no bottles or nipples to sterilize. Also, breast-feeding has a low chance of contamination. No special cleansing of the nipple is needed. Save money. Breast milk is free, where bottle-feeding can get expensive for the formula, bottles and nipples. Make your life easier. No need to purchase, measure and mix formula, or get up to warm a bottle in the middle of the night.
Benefits for baby
In addition to the bonding experience, breast-feeding offers many advantages for your baby:
Breast milk has antibodies that help protect infants from germs and illness. Breast milk naturally contains DHA,an essential fatty acid important in brain and eye development. Breast-feeding may decrease the incidence or severity of many conditions, such as diarrhea, ear infections and bacterial meningitis. Some studies also suggest that breast-feeding may offer protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity and asthma. Colostrum. Known as “liquid gold,” colostrum is the thick yellow breast milk you produce right after birth. Rich in nutrients and antibodies, it protects your baby during his first few days of life. Colostrum is all baby needs until your regular breast milk comes in. Breast milk is usually easier to digest than formula. It can take time for a newborn’s stomach to adjust to digesting the proteins in formula. Premature babies tend to do better when fed breast milk rather than formula. They also benefit from the antibodies in their mothers’ breast milk and are more likely to resist disease and infection than bottle-fed babies.
Further, it’s widely believed that there are other important components of breast milk that we are not aware of and will be missing in formula.
Deciding to bottle-feed
Breast-feeding is considered the best nutritional option for babies by experts, but it’s not right for every mother. Infant formula is a good alternative. Formulas have gotten better at matching the ingredients to that of breast milk. Following are some tips for bottle-feeding:
Select an iron-fortified formula. There is a lot of evidence that iron deficiency in the first years adversely affects brain development. Select a formula that is supplemented with DHA, the essential fat important for brain and eye development. Pick whichever type of formula best suits your needs. It can be powder, concentrate or ready-to-feed. There is no nutritional difference among them.
Ultimately, the decision to breast- or bottle-feed is yours. A happy and unstressed mother will be the best gift you can give to your newborn.
National Women’s Health Information Center. Benefits of breast-feeding. Accessed: 06/01/2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast-feeding. Accessed: 06/01/2009 Mortensen EL, Fleischer Michaelsen K, Sanders SA, Machover Reinisch J. The association between duration of breast-feeding and adult intelligence. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2002;287:2365-2371. Accessed: 06/01/2009 American Academy of Pediatrics. Revised breast-feeding recommendations. Accessed:06/01/2009