Choices for Feeding Your Baby

One of the most important decisions you will need to make when preparing for the arrival of your new baby is how you plan to feed her. This can be a difficult and emotional topic for many new mothers, but making the decision is a little easier when you know the facts about both breast and formula feeding.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

The American Academy of Pediatrics along with countless other medical associations all make the same recommendation: breastfeeding is the best choice for newborns. Human breast milk contains everything your baby needs to stay healthy and grow strong, including many compounds that can not be imitated by any commercial formula available today. Colostrum, the earliest breast milk that is produced in the first days after your baby’s birth, is rich in nutrients and antibodies that can’t be found anywhere else. These antibodies are crucial to strengthening your baby’s immune system.

Every mother’s breast milk is unique, and tailored precisely to the baby’s needs. Studies have shown that the composition of breast milk changes over time as your baby grows and her nutritional needs change. A mother’s body is also capable of compensating for premature birth by producing breast milk specific to the needs of a preterm infant.

Breast fed babies have a lower risk of a long list of problems later in life, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, and allergies. Because of the antibodies in breast milk, breast fed infants will catch fewer colds in the first years and generally maintain better health overall.

Breastfeeding has other benefits as well. It costs significantly less than formula feeding, you won’t spend a lot of time on washing and sanitizing bottles, and you won’t have to worry about bringing a lot of gear with you everywhere you go. Recent research has also shown that mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

While some mothers are concerned that breastfeeding will leave the new dad out of the feeding process, a breast pump can easily solve this problem. This way, dad can take on some of the night feedings while you get some much-needed rest.

Formula Feeding

There are a number of reasons for choosing formula feeding for your newborn. Some mothers may have difficulty with milk supply or illnesses which could be transferred to the baby through breast milk. Mothers of adopted infants will not have the necessary hormones from pregnancy to produce breast milk. Working mothers may find pumping at work difficult or in some cases nearly impossible.

Formula feeding also offers the benefit of making the new dad an equal partner in the feeding process, without the extra work of having to pump breast milk for him to use. Dads can mix a bottle and feed the baby without ever having to disturb your much-needed sleep.

Today’s formulas offer better nutrition than ever before, and there are a number of formula choices on the market in case your baby’s stomach is sensitive and you need to try a different brand.

The Third Choice: Compromise

Many new mothers see the breast or formula feeding choice as an all or nothing proposition, but there is plenty of room for compromise. A combination of breast and formula feeding will ensure your baby reaps some of the benefits of breast milk while taking some of the pressure off of an already exhausted mom.

You may wish to breastfeed while you are on maternity leave, and then switch to formula when you return to work. Your baby will still have received many of the important antibodies provided by the early milk.

Whatever your choice, remember that a relaxed, happy mom is important to baby’s health and happiness too. Don’t let your feeding choice become a source of major stress in your life at a time when you need all your strength to care for your new baby.

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