Choosing to breastfeed, formula feed, or both is one of the biggest decisions that expectant parents will make. The truth is it is difficult to prepare for breastfeeding and that it does not always go easily or as planned. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for both mother and baby. Breast milk provides ideal nutrition and a special bonding experience with your baby. A number of health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for babies. Breastfeeding helps defend against infections and allergies, and decrease the risk of some other health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and SIDS.
The AAP recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life. Beyond that, breastfeeding is encouraged until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing.
Other Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Ease of digestion: Breastfed infants tend to have less difficulty with digestion than formula-fed infants. Breast milk tends to be more easily digested so that breastfed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
- Cost: Breast milk is free, while the cost of formula quickly adds up. Unless you’re pumping breast milk and giving it to your baby, there is no need for bottles, nipples, and other supplies that can be costly.
- Convenience: It can be easier to feed your baby on your breast rather than wash bottles and nipples or warm up bottles in the middle of the night. It makes feeding your baby when you are away from home more convenient as well.
Breastfeeding is not always an easy undertaking. Parents and babies need plenty of patience and practice to get into the routine of nursing.
- Pain: pain when the baby latches on is very common in the first 1-2 weeks. The pain should not last more than about a minute with each feeding. If pain is present throughout the feedings, or if the nipples are sore or raw, you should get help from a lactation consultant or your doctor or midwife.
- Time commitment: Breastfeeding is a big time commitment that can be very overwhelming, especially with newborn babies. It can feel like all you are doing is feeding the baby around the clock! As your baby grows, the amount of time he or she can go between feedings will increase, and the baby will likely also become more efficient (finishing up the feeding more quickly).
- Diet concerns: Breastfeeding moms will need to be aware of what they eat and drink, since the food/drink can be passed to the baby through the breast milk. Some babies are more sensitive to certain types of food in Mom’s diet (dairy is a common offender!). If so, then Mom may need to alter her diet.
- Milk supply concerns: one of the most frustrating situations for a family who has made the commitment to breastfeed their baby is to have difficulty with adequate milk supply. Some key things to keep in mind about increasing supply is to make sure you are taking in adequate calories/nutrition and adequate hydration with primarily water each day. If milk supply is a concern, you should speak to a lactation consultant or your doctor or midwife about options.
Many women feel internal and external pressures to breastfeed. The decision is a personal one, and sometimes plans change given someone’s circumstances or difficulties. It is OK to bring these concerns up to your doctor or midwife. We are here to help you troubleshoot any difficulties that may arise, and to help you make the decision that is best for you and your family!