Whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed a baby is one of the toughest choices that any expectant mothers and new parents have to make. Although the choice is personal, it is better to know a few pros and cons of each feeding method to help parents make the best choice for their babies.
It is highly recommended by doctors and pediatricians to only breastfeed the baby for the first six months. After that, the babies can be given other supplements along with the breast milk for another six months. Breastfeeding can be continued after 12 months as long as the mother is willing to do so.
How does my baby benefit from breastfeeding?
Breast milk contains two main proteins: 60-70 percent of whey and 30-40 percent of casein. In comparison with cow's milk, breast milk is a better choice since cow's milk is rich in casein, making it more difficult to digest in the baby's body. Very often, cow's milk is the reason behind stomachaches and unrest during early childhood.
What do proteins do for the baby's well-being?
- Whey - this protein present in breast milk possesses immune protective properties against infectious agents due to the fact that breast milk carries the mother's antibodies.
- Lactoferrin - is an iron-binding protein found in breast milk, which protects the baby's body from coliforms and yeast that require iron for their growth in the gastrointestinal tract (gut and stomach).
- Secretory IgA - is the most abundant immunoglobulin present in breast milk. It protects babies against viral and bacterial invasions (outbreaks), particularly from intestinal and respiratory pathogens. This protein also helps to withstand strains of E. coli bacteria that cause diarrhea. It can also prevent the development of certain allergies.
- IgM and IgG - are responsible for fighting off viruses and bacteria as well. If lactating mothers eat plenty of fish, it will make their breast milk contain high levels of these elements.
- Lysozyme - is an enzyme that protects your little one against infections caused by E. coli and Salmonella.
- Bifidus factor - promotes lactobacillus growth, which is important in providing and maintaining the appropriate acidity in the baby's gut, making it hard for pathogenic bacteria to survive.
Does my baby need fats?
Breast milk is a source of long-chain fatty acids, which are essential for the proper development of the brain, retina, and nerves. Fats are necessary for your baby's health since they are a primary calorie source of the baby. Fats are also needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, D, and K.
How does my baby get vitamins while breastfeeding?
There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. These vitamins get into the baby's body while breastfeeding, and their amount depends on the mother's nutritional habits. If you are not too sure about the type of meals that are rich in these substances, then refer to your health care provider or lactation specialist for advice.
The primary carbohydrate present in breast milk is lactose. Lactose provides 40 percent of calories for the baby and limits the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. It also improves the absorption of vital minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium in the baby's gastrointestinal tract.
Breast milk contains the mother's leukocytes, which are white blood cells (WBCs) that fight against harmful microorganisms.
How do I benefit from breastfeeding?
1) Breastfeeding creates and encourages a stronger emotional bond between you and your baby. Your baby can learn the early skills of communication while breastfeeding aside from your baby feeling safe and comforted.
2) While breastfeeding, the mother's body responds by producing the hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps the uterus to shrink back to its normal size and stops the bleeding after delivery. Thus, mothers who breastfeed their babies tend to recover quicker than those who bottle-feed their child.
3) Breastfeeding also reduces a mother's risk of developing ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer, due to the fact that while lactating, the level of estrogen in the mother's body is very low. Thus, the lining of the uterus and breast glands do not proliferate that much, which lessen the possibility of cancerous growth in these tissues. The longer your breastfeed, the more you are protected.
4) It may also prevent osteoporosis for mothers who decide to breastfeed. Mothers who prefer milk formula for their little ones have four times the risk of developing osteoporosis and hip fractures than the former group.
5) Child spacing benefits. Lactation can put off ovulation (the period of time when you might conceive), so can manage your child spacing longer if you wish, while breastfeeding full time.
6) Breastfeeding is a very cost-effective method of feeding and the only thing it requires is proper breast hygiene and nourishment.
7) Breastfeeding promotes a quicker weight loss after delivery in comparison to those who chose formula feeding.
Why opt for formula feeding?
A nutritious alternative to breast milk is formula milk, which contains vitamins and minerals needed by babies. Formula milk is commercially prepared under sterile conditions. It contains a combination of proteins, fats, sugar, and vitamins that are difficult to prepare at home. For mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies due to medical, lifestyle, or any other reasons can opt for bottle-feeding because of the following factors:
- Convenience - either parent can feed the baby at any time.
- Flexibility - the mother can leave her baby for a while either with her partner or caregiver, knowing that the baby is well fed.
- Time and frequency of feeding - since formula milk cannot easily be digested, babies who are bottle-fed eat lesser than breastfed babies.
- Diet - mothers whose babies are bottle-fed do not have to worry about their diet that could affect the baby.
However, there are a few challenges that mothers need to consider before choosing a feeding method:
- Unlike breast milk, there are no antibiotics present in the formula milk.
- No matter how good it is, formula milk is only an alternative that cannot be compared to what breast milk can give.
- Formula-fed babies might have more gas and firmer bowel movements than breastfed babies.
- Unlike breastfeeding, bottle-feeding requires proper planning and organizing. Parents need to make sure that a portion of milk formula is always at home to avoid late-night runs to the store.
How you will feed your baby is sometimes a difficult choice to make. Whether your choice is right or not makes it even more confusing. Many parents find breastfeeding while supplementing formula milk to be the best choice.
Before deciding on anything, consult your doctor or lactation specialists as they can provide more information about the methods of feeding your baby.