Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

On the minds of many mamas-to-be is how you are going to feed that sweet baby once they arrive.  Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed, but this does not necessarily mean that it will come easy.  Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind as you begin learning about your options for feeding your baby is that fed is best.  Whether you are breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or a combination of both, the most important thing is that you ARE feeding your baby an appropriate form of nutrition that allows them to grow and thrive.  Let's dive into some commonly asked questions:


Is Breastfeeding Really What’s Best?

You may have heard it said, that Breast is Best!  Is this really the case?  “Wait...I thought you said that Fed is Best?!”  Well, let me explain.  Breastfeeding is the preferred feeding method for your baby for several reasons.  When it comes to your baby, your body has the capacity to produce the perfect food for your infant, one that is completely compatible with their growing bodies and developing systems. Breastfeeding has been shown to help babies defend against infections, prevent allergies, ear infections as well as protect against several chronic conditions and a variety of infectious diseases.  


What do the experts say about breastfeeding?

Several health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the American Medical Association (AMA), recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for feeding babies.  The AAP further recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, and following this, that breastfeeding continue until at least twelve months, and longer if mutually desired by both mother and baby.  Many moms may feel overwhelmed by these recommendations, or even confused.  Is it possible to breastfeed for this long? What are the benefits for the baby?  Thankfully, there are many beneficial aspects of breastfeeding, not just for your baby, but for you too, mama!


How does breastfeeding help the mama?

When it comes to you, mama, breastfeeding is helpful for your body in several ways too!  Women who breastfeed have lower risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer and have improved recovery following childbirth.  There are also benefits for your family and the community as well.  Breastfeeding does encourage bonding between mother and baby during feeding sessions.  Because breastfeeding allows direct feeding from mama to baby, it’s the greenest and most convenient way to nurture your baby - it saves water, doesn’t manufacture pollution, and BONUS - saves you and your family money.  There is less risk of contamination, and breastmilk is always delivered to your infant ready to feed - fresh and at the perfect temperature!  So with all these benefits - it seems like a no brainer to breastfeed, right?  


What about Formula Feeding?

Expectant parents are faced with one of the most important decisions when it comes to feeding their baby.  You may be going into your pregnancy and childbirth fully intending on breastfeeding, but when faced with some of the common challenges that come with nursing, you may find yourself thinking otherwise.  And what do you make of the formula samples you’ve received in the mail and from the hospital? Is there anything wrong with formula feeding, or is breastfeeding really what’s best?  For mothers who are unable to breastfeed or simply decide not to, formula can be a healthy alternative for your baby.  If you decide to formula feed your baby, it is important to know that this is a totally viable option, one that will also allow your baby to grow and thrive with the necessary nutrients. 


What If I Am Unable To Breastfeed?

There are actually few reasons why you should not breastfeed, and even if you think breastfeeding might be impossible for you, this may in fact not be the case.  Even if you don’t have the best diet, have had breast surgery, or take certain medications for chronic conditions, you can likely still breastfeed your baby.  If you are concerned about something that may prevent you from breastfeeding, be sure to have a discussion with your doctor or midwife to determine what your options are when it comes to breastfeeding.  



What Are Reasons That I May Not Breastfeed?

Breastfeeding may not be advisable in situations where a mother may have had an environmental exposure or a medical condition that warrants her to stop breastfeeding. One example is in the case where the infant is diagnosed with galactosemia, a rare inherited condition in which the body can't properly digest galactose, a sugar found in all foods that contain milk.  Be sure to talk with a physician, who will help you make a case-by-case assessment to determine whether breastfeeding can continue.



What Can I Do If Breastfeeding Becomes Difficult?

Even if a mother is having difficulty nursing her baby directly from her breast, there is an option to pump and feed breast milk through a bottle.  This allows a mother the option of giving her baby breastmilk, even if direct latching is not possible.  It is important to remember that there are many helpful resources to support your decision to breastfeeding, including lactation consultants and free breastfeeding groups, which are often provided through your OB clinic, hospital, or birthing center.  Seek out help and connect to these resources before your baby is born so you are equipped with the support you need to breastfeed successfully.

In the case that you cannot breastfeed your baby for whatever reason, know that you are STILL the perfect mother for your sweet baby!  Many mothers interpret their inability to breastfeed or even the challenges encountered when breastfeeding as a failure, and this is absolutely not the case.  

The most important thing is that you are feeding your baby the nutrition they need to grow and thrive, and formula is a perfectly acceptable alternative to breastmilk.  You can also utilize donor breastmilk as another option, should you prefer not to use formula.  If you are concerned about whether formula is a suitable option for your infant, be sure to discuss this with your pediatrician.  

Some women may be so adamant about breastfeeding that it prevents them from objectively seeing the options that may be best for the baby and family as a whole. But remember: every woman’s situation is different, so stay connected to support and loved ones to collectively decide on what is best for you and your little one.  When it comes to feeding your baby, the decision may not be as black and white as you might think.  So understand your preference but know that things may change through the course of your baby’s life.  

And no matter what - you are the BEST mama for your baby!