There are a lot of big decisions that new and expectant parents have to make. Where will the baby sleep? Is it better to use cloth diapers or disposable diapers? Is it OK to use a pacifier? While these are all important questions, the matter of feeding is one of the biggest decisions that new parents have to make.
Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is right up there with deciding your baby’s name in terms of importance. In the same way that people can feel very strongly about certain names, people take strong positions when it comes to nursing or formula feeding. There are those who will champion the bottle and reject breastfeeding, and there are those who could not imagine raising a baby on formula. Deciding between these two options isn’t as easy as just flipping a coin, and there are a few things to consider before making a choice.
In general, breastfeeding is considered the healthiest option for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization all recommend breastfeeding infants. If the mother is eating a healthy and nutritious diet, breastfeeding a baby ensures that he or she will receive the right nutrients to grow and develop. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to fall ill or develop health complications, and some studies have linked breastfeeding to better health and better school performance later in life.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, children should be breast fed exclusively until 6 months of age, and then continue to have breast milk as a main part of their diet until they are at least 1 to 2 years old.
Although it’s possible for a mother to have a health problem that makes her unable to breastfeed, this is uncommon. Getting support from a lactation counselor can help moms who have problems nursing.
If you decide not to breastfeed, formula feeding is an adequate alternative to nursing. Baby formula is typically made from cow’s milk that has been altered to resemble breast milk. Most babies can do well on formula.
Also keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a matter of all or nothing. Nursing can be combined with formula feeding. However, nursing part-time may reduce a mother’s milk supply. Expressing milk and using a bottle to feed breast milk can help working mothers fit breastfeeding into their schedules.
Ultimately the decision to nurse or formula feed is a personal one. You have to make the decision that is best for you and your baby. Of course, you don’t have to make that decision alone. Meet with your pediatrician to discuss which option is right for you.
If you are considering breast feeding, attending a breast feeding class at your local hospital can help you be prepared and answer any questions you may have about breast feeding, including tips for success and breast pump options for working mothers.