Infant Feeding: Breast or Bottle?
You are a new mother or are anticipating the birth of your child. As you prepare for your baby's arrival, there may be many questions you may have. One might be: Should I breastfeed? Here are some points to consider when deciding to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby
- Proper nourishment—Breast milk contains almost all of thenourishment that babies need during their first 6 months oflife. However, vitamin D supplementation is needed because breast milk is low in this vitamin. Supplementation with vitamin D will need to be continued until your baby is getting enough vitamin D from other sources, such as vitamin D-fortified formula or sun. Starting at age 4 months, your baby will also need an iron supplement until he or she starts getting enough iron from food sources, like infant cereal. If your baby is premature, he or she will likely need to take iron starting at 1 month.
- Immunity boost—Breast milk contains substances not found in formula that helpprotect babies from illness. These substances include antibodies, immunoglobulins, activeenzymes, and hormones.
- Fewer illnesses—Compared with bottlefed infants,breastfed infants are less likely to develop:
- Possible protection against certain conditions—Breastfed infants may have protection against sudden infant death syndrome, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, asthma, atopic dermatitis, and leukemia.
- Boost to brain development—The nutrients found in breastmilk enhance how your baby's brain develops. Breastfeeding may even have a positive impact on your child's IQ and school performance.
- Easy digestion—Breast milk is easy for babies todigest.
- Bonding—The skin-to-skin contact involved inbreastfeeding can enhance bonding between mother and baby.
- Jaw development—Sucking at the breast promotes good jawdevelopment. It is harder to get milk from the breast than from abottle.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the MomWomen who breastfeed their babies experience the followinghealth benefits:
- Less postpartum bleeding
- More rapid shrinkage of the uterus to pre-pregnancy size
- Quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight—Milk productionburns calories.
- Slower return of menstrual cycles
- Possible reduced risk of:
- Breast milk is available, sterile, and free.
- There is no formula to buy, measure, and mix.
- There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize.
Drawbacks of Breastfeeding
- Stress for mom—You are the sole providerof nutrition for your baby, which can be very demanding andexhausting. However, once a pattern is established, other familymembers can give you a break by feeding the baby a bottle of breastmilk that has been pumped and stored in the refrigerator orfreezer.
- Slow start—You may have difficulty getting the babyto properly latch onto the breast.
- Possible pain—Breastfeeding can be painful. You may have sorenipples, clogged milk ducts, and mastitis (breast pain).
- Medicine precautions—Some medicines can pass through the breast milk to your baby and may not be safe. Drugs can also interfere with how much milk you produce. Talk to you healthcare provider before taking prescription and over-the-counter medicine, as well as herbs and supplements.
The Benefits of Bottlefeeding
- Proper nutrition—Commercially prepared formulas (whichare regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration) supply the appropriate combinations ofproteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins to meet a baby's nutritionalrequirements; supplements are not usually necessary. But, if your baby is not eating enough vitamin D fortified formula, a supplement may be needed.
- Bonding—Although there is no skin-to-skin contact,cuddling while feeding can enhance bonding.
- Less dependence on you—Anyone can feed the baby. This makes it easier if you work or if you cannot or do not want to be the sole provider of the milk.
The Drawbacks of Bottlefeeding
- The possibility of allergy—Cow's milk formulas contain adifferent type of protein than breast milk, and some infants may beallergic to it or have trouble digesting it. These babies can begiven soy milk formula, although some may be allergic to soyprotein, too, and would require a hydrolyzed formula.
- A lot of preparation—Bottlefeeding requires a lot oforganization and preparation; you will need to have enoughformula on hand and have bottles and nipples clean and ready.
- A significant expense—In today's economic climate, many foods, including formula can be costly.
- Freshness not guaranteed—Formula can go bad, so you will need to check expiration dates and avoid damaged containers.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Women's Health Information Center
Womens Health Matters
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3/18/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Martin RM, Patel R, Kramer MS, et al. Effects of promoting longer-term and exclusive breastfeeding on adiposity and insulin-like growth factor-I at age 11.5 years: a randomized trial.JAMA. 2013 Mar 13;309(10):1005-13.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/30/2014