As soon as you hit parenthood you have to make several decisions which will not only impact your life but the life of a little one. The choices that you make will have a strong influence on many lives and that’s why so much debate and thought is given into each. You’re basically making someone else’s life decisions so the pressure is on. There’re many such topics of controversies in the world of parenting like, vaccine, sleeping habits, potty training, choosing herbal lactation supplements or lactation drinks but the one that tops all is the ultimate debate of breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. To select between either of the two options is probably the toughest, most nerve wrecking and emotionally poignant decision parents and especially a mother has to take.
No matter which option you choose, there will be people, friends and family members in your circle that will either support you, argue with you or simply make you feel super guilty. Regardless of what decision you make, every parent wants the best for their child, for sure. But it’s equally important and absolutely fine to think about your own comfort, preference and ease. It’s a very pivotal decision which shouldn’t be taken under anybody’s influence or pressure. Each of the options have its own set of pros and cons which I will further address in this article.
Many parents have been judged, ridiculed and looked down on just because they choose to formula feed their new one but it’s not about what’s right or wrong; it’s about the healthier option for the mother and the baby. When I say healthier option, mental, physical and emotional health must also be taken into account. So, let’s explore both these options in detail so that we can finally put this long debate at rest and let the parents make the decision without feeling guilty, pressurized or rushed.
One of the best things about breastmilk is that it adapts to the baby’s requirements at every stage and gives the appropriate nourishment required at that particular stage. Breast milk is like a living fluid, it understands, adapts and performs. The most renowned organizations of the world like WHO, FDA and AAP have strongly recommended nursing the child exclusively for the first six months and continuing until the age of 2.
Pros of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has some amazing benefits for not only the baby but also for the mother and these benefits are multi-faceted. Starting with a very general benefit, breastfeeding is free of cost. The breast milk comes naturally without doing anything. Sometimes mothers need to increase milk supply by taking herbal lactation supplements or she needs to buy some nursing clothes or pumps but other than that it’s for free and is ready when the baby needs it, amazing right! Breast milk has many benefits for the overall emotional, physical and mental growth of the baby. Breast milk is packed with nutrients that every baby needs for optimum health and growth. It’s also very light on the stomach, digests easily and doesn’t upset the digestive system. Breast milk helps boost the immune system of the baby which is very beneficial in the long run. It reduces the risk of SIDS, viral infections, diabetes, obesity, asthma and other allergies.
Nursing the baby also helps the mother deal with the postpartum depression, lose that extra weight gained during the pregnancy, helps promote good hormones, lowers the risk of breast cancer and the skin-to-skin contact helps both the mother-baby to great an unbreakable bond.
Cons of Breastfeeding
Without a speck of doubt, breastfeeding is very beneficial but it comes with its own set of challenges. Most of these challenges are faced by the mother so it’s absolutely important the final decision must be taken by her. A mother might feel discomfort during the first couple of weeks of nursing. As there’s no way to measure how much the baby has suckled, a mother is always worried about her milk supply not being enough. It also restricts the mother in various ways, especially if she is a working woman.
Bottle feeding can swing both ways, you can pump breast milk and feed through a bottle or you can also use formula milk powder and feed in a bottle. When feeding breast milk through a bottle, all the benefits of the mother’s milk retain in it. If you choose formula milk, it tries to imitate the nutrient content of the breast milk, made under sterile conditions and has a complex mix or proteins, sugars, vitamins, minerals and fats. So if you do in fact choose formula milk, make sure you use the commercially produced ones and not cow’s milk or any other alternative.
Pros of Bottle Feeding
Bottle feeding can be done by any family member so the baby isn’t dependent on one single body for food. Father, sibling and other close relatives can also bond with the baby over feeding. It allows the parents to have much more flexibility and mobility in their schedule, they can go on date night, parties and to work as well. Another great benefit of bottle feeding is that you can now measure how much milk the baby has taken in and from that you can notice any irregularities in the diet as well. If the mother feels that her supply of milk has dropped when pumping her milk to fill in the bottle, she can increase milk supply by taking herbal lactation supplements.
Cons of Bottle Feeding
Although breast milk is free, if you decide to nurse your baby via a bottle then the free factor may not be valid anymore. You now have to buy bottles, sterilizer, extra nipples, pumps, bottle brushes and other small accessories that go with the whole thing. If you opt for the formula milk then your complexities will further increase as you now have to accurately measure the powder and water quantities so that the milk isn’t too diluted or concentrated. Formula milk also doesn’t provide the same defence against diseases as breast milk can.
Breast milk is the best milk for your baby, but sometimes a mother is unable to nurse the baby. So, no need to feel guilty, insecure or worthless. No one can love the baby more than the mother. If you’re confused try taking help from your partner, lactation expert, midwife or doctor.