Whichever decision you make, breast or formula, won't be the wrong decision as it needs to be right for you and your baby. To help you make the right choice firstly speak to your doctor or a healthcare expert, but below are some facts to help you with your decision.
Choosing whether to breast feed or formula feed your baby is one of the first decisions expectant Mums will make. Research shows breast feed is best for babies, as it helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and prevent against a number of chronic conditions.
The experts state babies should be breast fed exclusively for the first 6 months, and many Mums will go beyond that and breast feed at least until 12 months. Although experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, breast feeding may not be possible for all women. And for many women, they may not want to breast feed based on their lifestyle, comfort level and sometimes specific medical considerations.
For mothers who are unable to breast feed or choose not to, infant formula is the alternative. Some women feel very guilty if they don't breast feed, but its a choice and you should not feel guilty with the choice you make. You will still bond with your baby just as a breast fed baby does. The decision to breast feed or formula feed your baby is a very personal one.
The question many mothers are faced with is how long to breast feed their baby should it be for a week, a month, for a year or more? Government guidelines say babies should be breast fed for at least a year after birth. This is not a realistic goal for most mothers, especially if you have to work or stay away from home for longer periods or just don't want to commit for that length of time. Breast pumps can help nursing mothers store their milk to feed to babies and mix breast with bottle which is an option many mums relish. Many mums can choose to combine breast with bottle, they may breast feed when they are at home and prepare bottles of formula for while they work or have gone out for the day. Some mothers will choose to express breast milk for bottle feeding while others opt for formula.
If you are using formula your own breast milk production will decrease as its demand decreases. It is best to gradually reduce the number of breast feeds to prevent developing a condition called mastitis, this is where the breast becomes inflamed or you can get engorged (swollen) breasts which can be painful. It is recommended that you wait until your baby is 6 weeks old before reducing breast feeds.
Some babies can get confused by the constant changing of feeding techniques while others have no trouble at all, there are some good 'from breast to bottle' products on the market so research the products before you buy.
- It provides the ideal nourishment and a special bonding experience that many mothers cherish. Antibodies passed from a nursing mum to her baby can help lower the occurrence of many conditions. It helps to boost their immune systems by increasing the barriers to infection.
- Breast feeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies.
- Often called the perfect food for a babies digestive system, breast milk tends to be more easily digested by a newborns immature system. Breast milk also contains many of the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires.
- Breast milk is free! It doesn't cost anything to produce, while the cost of formula soon adds up. Researchers have determined that breast fed babies have fewer episodes of ear infections.
- A nursing mother will usually need 500 extra calories per day, which means she should eat a wide variety of well balanced foods. This introduces breast fed babies to different tastes through their mothers milk, by tasting the foods of mothers culture breast fed babies usually more easily accept solid foods.
- Many nursing mothers really enjoy the experience of bonding so closely with their babies. The skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and baby.
- Another benefit to mums is that breast feeding burns calories and helps to shrink the uterus, so many nursing mums will return to their pre-pregnancy weight quicker.
Breast feeding challenges:
Although it is best to breast feed it does cause concern with some mothers. Sometimes, both mother and baby need plenty of patience to persist and to get used to the routine of breast feeding. In the first few weeks it can be uncomfortable, sore nipples and hurting throughout feeds. Latch-on pain is normal for approximately the first 10 days or so. It may just be the case you may need some support from a breast feeding expert to help with this and discover the proper latch-on technique. But sometimes pain can mean something else is going on, like an infection.
There is no question that breast feeding does require a substantial time commitment from mothers. Many mums are concerned that breast feeding will make it hard for them to work, run errands, or travel. Also breast fed babies need to eat more often than babies who are fed formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This may mean mums may find that they have a demand to feed every 2 to 3 hours, particularly in the first few weeks. This can be tiring for mums and tricky if they have other children. But with a little organisation and time management, it becomes easier to work out a schedule and you can use a breast pump so other members of the family can help out!
Breast feeding mums need to be aware that what they eat and drink can be passed onto their babies through breast milk. If a woman has alcohol, a small amount can be passed onto the baby through the breast milk, so she should wait at least 2 hours before feeding baby. Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than one to three cups of coffee a day as it can cause problems such as restlessness and irritability in some babies. Some infants are sensitive to caffeine, you can discuss this with your health care expert for further advice.
Breastfeeding isn't right for every mother. Commercially prepared infant formulas are a nutritious alternative to breast milk, they even contain some vitamins and nutrients that breast fed babies need to get from supplements.
The benefits of formula feeding are:
- that either parent can feed the baby a bottle at any time, (although this is true for women who pump their breast milk). This allows mothers to share the feeding duties and her partner will feel more involved in the crucial feeding process and the bonding that comes with it.
- Once bottles are made, a formula feeding mum can leave her baby with a partner or relative and know her little one's feedings are taken care of. Formula mums don't need to find a private place to nurse in public, however mum will need to remember to take a supply of bottles out with her if she out for the day or visiting relatives or friends.
- Formula babies normally need to feed and eat less than a breast fed baby, as the formula is less digestible.
- Mums who opt for formula feeding don't need to worry about what they eat and drink as it won't affect their baby.
Bottle feeding patterns
Newborns tend to feed small amounts regularly throughout the day. You should try to offer your newborn a bottle every 2-3 hours and allow them to feed until they are full. As baby gets bigger they will begin to drink larger quantities in one sitting, and they will probably start to leave longer periods between each feed.
The position of the bottle feeding baby is not as crucial as the breast feeding position but you still want to put your baby into a good position for him to latch onto the bottle teat and receive a good supply of milk. Holding your baby so their head is in the crook of your elbow and they are slightly raised position.
Always test the temperature of the milk by pouring a little on the back of your hand then get your baby to search for the teat, you can do this by gently stroking their cheek. Baby should open their mouth and you can put the teat in their mouth.
Bottle fed babies tend to feed quicker than breast fed babies and can therefore take in more air. Make sure the bottle is tilted to ensure the teat is always filled with milk and doesn't contain air. If your baby is bottle fed they are more likely to suffer with wind, you may want to experiment with slower flowing teats on their bottle. During babies feed they may pause for a break and it is a good idea to wind them, tilt them gently forward against the palm of your hand while supporting their chin, and rub or gently pat their back to try and bring up the air. Don't force your baby to take a wind break as this will result in them crying and take in more air.
A mother with a routine fed baby always seems the most confident and calmest around. Follow babies natural feeding patterns whether it is breast or bottle fed. What we suggest doing is recording your baby's feeding and sleeping times so you can personalise a routine for them, as all babies are different, this may take a few weeks to establish. A routine also brings you knowledge, helping you to understand your baby better.
Remember which ever decision you make it needs to be right for you!