Although breastfeeding is a natural process, the joys it brings are divine. Breast Milk provides all the nutrients, and vitamins newborns need, it helps babies fight off any health issues, and helps them develop perfectly.
Breastfeeding is emotional, it’s soothing, and it strengthens the bond between a mother and her little one. It’s no surprise that governments and lactation consultants recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Oh, and let’s not forget that breastmilk is for free! In simple words, breastfeeding is best…
Wait a minute! Can we start again? While breastfeeding is special, we can’t ignore the fact that some women can’t, shouldn’t or don’t want to breastfeed. Before we start bombarding them with accusations, let’s not forget that some health conditions may affect breastfeeding. Some things may be passed onto the baby through breastmilk. Stress, lack of support, and exhaustion can result in low production of breastmilk. What’s more breastfeeding and pumping may result in emotional issues.
Health experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. But breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.
For moms who can’t breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. The formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Some mothers worry that if they don’t breastfeed, they won’t bond with their baby. But the truth is, loving mothers will always create a special bond with their children. And feeding — no matter how — is a great time to strengthen that bond.
The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby.
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Breast milk vs formula: How similar are they?
When deciding how to feed your baby, knowing what’s in breast milk or formula, the difference in cost, and the impact they have on health and sleep, can help you make an informed choice.
Let’s start by comparing breast milk to formula. There are ways in which formula is similar to breast milk: they both provide energy, hydration and nutrients, so your baby will grow whichever milk he is given.
But despite advances in how baby milk powder is formulated and manufactured, it doesn’t come close to matching the health benefits of your breast milk. Human milk has evolved over millions of years to be the perfect food for human babies. It’s much more complex than other mammals’ milk, as it builds our more complex brains and unique digestive and immune systems.
In contrast, cow’s milk, from which most formula is made, meets the specific needs of calves. It’s not safe for human babies to drink, so it has to be processed intensively when made into the formula for infants.
“Did you know the salt [sodium] content in cow’s milk is pretty much at toxic levels for babies?” says Professor Peter Hartmann, an internationally renowned specialist in breastfeeding and milk production, based at the University of Western Australia.
“In fact, in the early 1980s, cow’s milk was known to be toxic to laboratory animals such as rabbits or rats. These days, if any compound is toxic to a laboratory animal, it’s not pursued in drug studies. So, by today’s standards, they wouldn’t have been allowed to make formula! Meanwhile, the mother’s milk has very low concentrations of sodium.”
Why would a mother choose to bottle-feed?
Bottle-feeding can allow new mothers to be less restrictive with their diets, as they might be concerned that the food and medication that they ingest can be passed along to their babies through their milk. Women who worry that their smoking or coffee habits may make their natural milk contain trace amounts of nicotine and caffeine see baby formula as a safer alternative.
“Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use can inhibit milk production,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. “An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoided for two hours after the drink.”
Infection is another reason why a woman might choose to stop breastfeeding or avoid it altogether. Mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain and swelling, can occur in breastfeeding women. It most commonly affects women during the first three months of breastfeeding, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Breastfeeding affects different women differently. Some mothers find it leaves them feeling too uncomfortable and sore, and bottle-feeding offers them a convenient and pain-free alternative. Others choose not to breastfeed because of other family or job pressures.
Why would a mother want to breastfeed?
Breast milk provides newborns with the best combination of antibodies, vitamins, proteins, other nutrients for the baby’s health and cognitive and physical development, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The APA recommends exclusively breastfeeding a newborn for at least the first six months of life, followed by at least another six months of combining breast milk with other sources of nutrition, such as formula.
Studies have shown that breast milk is easier for babies to digest than formula, and can offer various health benefits, from increased immunity and slightly higher intelligence quotients to a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
And the effects seem to last as a child grows. According to a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics, breastfeeding prevents many illnesses that can affect young children, including stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, juvenile diabetes and even childhood leukemia.
However, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have found that the association between breastfeeding and healthy children may not be as strong as previously believed, according to a 2010 study published in the Norwegian journal Acta Obstestricia and Gynecologica Scandinavica. The researchers concluded that it is hormonal levels within the womb that determine the child’s future health and that these hormones also influence a mother’s ability to breastfeed after the baby is born.
Reasons Why Some Moms Choose Formula
Some Health Conditions Make Breastfeeding Harder Or Impossible
Although the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, there are many medical reasons to choose formula. For instance, HTLV and HIV-positive women should not breastfeed as they may pass on the virus to their babies. Note that recent data shows that more than 1.5 million women live with these health issues. In addition, moms undergoing antiretroviral therapy should not breastfeed as there are various toxicities associated with the treatment.
Some Moms Deal With Body Image Issues
While some mothers can’t or shouldn’t breastfeed, there are women who formula feed by choice. Well, it’s not a secret that many women struggle with body image issues after birth, including their post-breastfeeding chest. According to vogue.com, women describe the girls as “Tube socks filled with a stack of quarters”, “deflated water balloons”, and “egg yolks dripping down a wall”.
Low self-esteem can explain why some new moms choose to formula feed. In the end, though, mothers who choose formula also need love, social support, and understanding.
Some Women Find It Too Stressful
Stress and breastfeeding go hand in hand. Often lactation consultants, charities and mommy friends bombard new moms with advice on breastfeeding. As a result, many women experience high levels of stress, which can cause breastmilk to dry up. According to babycenter.com, though, if a mother continues to nurse, her milk production won’t necessarily stop. At the same time, stress leads to the release of cortisol, which may pass on the baby and affect their behaviour.
Thus, some women simply choose formula. Instead of stressing over breastfeeding, mothers prefer to invest their emotional energy into other vital aspects, such as intellectual stimulation, emotional support, and social interactions.
Some Women Get Too Fatigued
It’s not a secret that breastfeeding comes with fatigue and insomnia all at the same time. Interestingly, breastfeeding has also been associated with exhaustion. Studies showed that stress and fatigue lead to low levels of oxytocin, which may affect breastmilk production. On top of that, breastfed babies eat more often than formula-fed babies which becomes an additional burden.
Sleep is crucial for the whole family, so it’s no surprise that some families formula feeds by choice. Mom and writer Adrienne Stortz told medium.com, I did not want this process to be tied to my body anymore, and once he was out, I had a choice in this.”
PPD Can Affect Breastfeeding
Pregnancy and birth may lead to numerous emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety. Sadly, data shows that more than 15% of new mothers get postpartum depression, often within the first year after birth. The impact of maternal depression can affect kids. Researchers reveal that PPD increases the risk of emotional and behavioural issues later in life.
Emotional pain may lead to questionable parenting decisions, so there are mothers who choose to formula feed by choice and invest in their emotional well-being instead. In addition, although studies suggest that breastfeeding reduces the risk of baby blues, babies can feel when mothers are upset, which may impact their attachment.
Some Women Don’t Want To Go Through The Physical Changes To The Girls
Societies force women to believe that breastfeeding is wonderful. Breastfeeding is precious, but we have to admit that discomfort, leaking milk, and body issues are difficult and may ruin people’s relationships. Breastfeeding brings out all sorts of insecurities, control issues, and excuses not to be [close] for both mothers and fathers.”
I had always thought of my [chest] as an aesthetically pleasing part of my body. But when I started nursing [it] seemed less like a source of [pride] than a huge pair of faucets that needed constant maintenance.” To avoid complications and insecurities, some women simply choose formula.
Some Working Moms Just Can’t Fit It In Their Schedules
While some countries have incredible parental leave policies, the US is notorious for its low-income family policies. In fact, for working moms, breastfeeding and pumping may become a challenge. So many women just choose formula. In case you want to pump, though, your employer must allow time for regular pumping.
Another reason to choose formula is one’s value. I often heard that people couldn’t justify the expense of formula when breastfeeding is ‘free’, but breastfeeding is only cheaper if you believe that a woman’s time has no value. $50 a week to get more sleep, improve my mental health, and save 14+ hours felt like a bargain.”
Some Women Feel Pressured Into It
Surrounded by tech gadgets, people are slowly becoming obsessed with something they’ve already lost: their connection with Mother Earth. As a result, many people preach against pain relief options, formula, and hospitals. However, social pressure should stop being a factor in people’s decisions.
If a mother wants to use formula, she has the right to stay away from pressure to breastfeed. There is so much pressure to breastfeed and so much talk in the media about how [breastfeeding] is best for baby, and there is so little talk about what it means for the mom… Where along the way did we forget that formula [is not bad for] babies?”
Sometimes The Baby Can’t Do It
Breastmilk or formula? It doesn’t matter – mothers and babies always bond for life. However, some moms choose formula because of their babies. Some rare issues in infants make breastfeeding impossible. Galactosemia is a rare metabolic disorder, which may lead to many health issues. Stats show that it affects 1 in 7000 newborns. (Note that lactose-free formula is a must.) Reflux can also impact breastfeeding.
Interestingly, breastfeeding confusion may also affect breastfeeding. It happens when a baby finds it easier to suck on a bottle and can’t suck from the source. This may occur in the first few weeks.
Some Health Reasons Affect Mom’s Decision
Although breastfeeding can improve the baby’s immune system, some moms choose to formula feed. Many emotional and health reasons may affect their decision. A common cold is enough to stop moms from breastfeeding. If left untreated, a cold may lead to illnesses, such as pneumonia.
Sometimes Mom Shouldn’t Breastfeed To Protect The Baby
Health conditions are reason Number One to choose to formula feed. Believe it or not, HSV can force women to choose formulas. Note that there are two types of infections. Breastfeeding with HSV is okay as the risk of passing the virus onto the baby is low. However, the baby can still get HSV by skin-to-skin contact, so it might be better to avoid breastfeeding.
Pumping or formula won’t harm your baby, mama, so just choose what works the best for you and your family.
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Women That Are Recovering Simply Can’t Breastfeed
Mothers with cancer may also choose to formula feed their little ones. Sadly, the medication these patients take may affect the baby. Nevertheless, a mother’s health is vital. As survivor Meghan Koziel said, “To all the mommies like me facing complicated health histories or facing social media trolls for how you’re raising your child, I would say … keep on being you!”
At the same time, we should mention an interesting fact. Research shows that breastfeeding can reduce the risk. Also, figures reveal that in 5-10% of cases, breast cancer is a result of gene abnormalities inherited from one’s parents.
Logistic Problems Can Get In The Way
It’s not a secret that millennial moms travel the world. Many families travel with their newborns, which makes breastfeeding difficult. Well, parents don’t do it only for selfish reasons – children, including infants, benefit from new stimuli and environments.
It’s not only about leisure travel, though. Some working moms can’t escape from all the business meetings they have to attend. When imagining myself back to work, I did not want to schedule meetings all day around pumping alone in a dingy room or shipping milk across the country while at conferences. Oh, and let’s not forget that formula doesn’t kill babies.
Some Women Are Worried About How Society Views Breastfeeding
Motherhood is surrounded by lots of discomforts, guilt, and social pressure. One can even witness mothers being shamed for public breastfeeding.
For some women, breastfeeding is simply unfair. “The only federal law in place allows a new parent to take 12 weeks off unpaid, which leaves women to manage the logistics of pumping and working for nine months after parental leave ends. The system and expectations set women up for guilt and failure before they even start The stigma we have in this country about formula feeding is cultural and is at a peak in current trends.
Sometimes It Is Too Uncomfortable
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it can be an unpleasant physical experience. From sore skin to mastitis, breastfeeding can hurt, which might be a sign of other health problems. Decreased milk production and yeast infection are some of the causes of sudden and unbearable pain.” This kind of physical discomfort can lead to numerous emotional problems and depression. As explained above, depression has a negative impact on children later in life.
Therefore, some mothers choose to formula feed in order to avoid pain and embrace happiness. Whatever you choose, mama, love is the only thing your baby truly needs.
Pumping Makes Things Difficult Sometimes
While breastfeeding and bonding with your little one can be miraculous, pumping can be a real nightmare – you spend more time with your pump instead of your family. Personally, despite all the pros and cons of pumping, I still think that pumping is one of the most annoying and meaningless tolls of motherhood.
Across The Globe, Breastfeeding Is Seen Differently
Although beliefs and rituals vary between countries and regions, breastfeeding is still seen as the best way to feed a baby. Nevertheless, many moms are forced to choose formula due to cultural differences and religious beliefs.
In India, for example, breastfeeding in public is acceptable, but society advocates modesty for women, which makes breastfeeding a controversial topic. Interestingly, in some countries, the formula is distributed at no cost. In South Africa, for instance, due to the country’s high HIV prevalence, women receive formula from the government. Mom-shaming is another global problem that affects breastfeeding and parenting in general.
If Daddy Isn’t Supportive, Breastfeeding Is Tough
Lack of support is another reason for moms to choose formulas. Breastfeeding leads to exhaustion, pain, and stress, so we can’t blame moms who prefer to formula feed their children. In the end, Daddy matters – he has to be involved in newborn care.
Although biological differences can’t be erased, men must get involved in newborn care and feeding. We wanted to be 50/50 partners in raising our child, and that started with sharing every feeding from day one. I would not be the ‘primary parent.’ We would do this as a team.”
The Choice Belongs To Each Woman
Breastfeeding is essential for child development. It helps moms bond with their kids and enjoys the joys of motherhood. Note that during your baby’s first month, you might have to breastfeed 8-12 times a day, often on demand.
At the same, formulas can help women who can’t, shouldn’t or don’t want to breastfeed. Had a [bad] time nursing my first … I wanted to enjoy my second son’s infancy, so I formula fed right off and it worked out great. My husband helped with feedings, I slept much more, and I have good memories of his babyhood since I wasn’t half-asleep, anxious and crabby all the time!”
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To Formula Feed Or Not To Formula Feed?
The formula has its pros and cons. The formula can help women with health and emotional problems. Yet, experts claim that breastfeeding is the best. Well, instead of listing benefits and detriments, we should agree that love is the only food that children need.
To all moms who chose formula, just like me, we won’t judge you. Breastfeeding just never came organically to me. I never tried even once, And the strangest thing happened over a bottle mixed from a can: we bonded, we loved each other, they played with the whiskers on their Daddy’s face when he gave them their nighttime bottles, they grew healthy and smart, and I rest assured that there will not be a checkbox on their university applications asking how they were fed.
Deciding how you will feed your baby can be a hard decision. You’ll only know the right choice for your family when your baby comes.
Many women decide on one method before birth and then change their minds after their baby is born. And many women decide to breastfeed and supplement with formula because they find that is the best choice for their family and their lifestyle.
While you’re weighing the pros and cons, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. These health care providers can give you more information about your options and help you make the best decision for your family.
Finally, have you considered the environmental benefits of breast milk? With no intensive farming, factory emissions, transportation or packaging involved, breastfeeding is better for the planet as well as for you and your baby.