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15 Things To Consider When Choosing Between Breastfeeding Or Formula

It’s a timeless debate-formula vs. breastfeeding. Moms everywhere, and yes, even non-moms are constantly discussing which method is the best when it comes to their kids. Then we had the new movement, the fed-is-besters’ who argue that it doesn’t matter whether a mom sticks a real nipple or a bottle nipple in their child’s mouth as long as that child goes to bed fed and happy at the end of the day. Each argument does have a lot of merit in their own way.

The simple fact is that ever since formula was invented, there has been a debate and as such, there always be a debate on how to feed babies. Both sides will argue that their option is the best option while people either stand on the sidelines and watch or join in and heat it up a few more degrees.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend breastfeeding as the healthiest option for infants, saying that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, the simple fact of the matter is that this either isn’t considered by or possible for some American families. Instead, they must turn to other feeding methods.

When a mom becomes pregnant for the first time, she has a lot of new decisions coming her way. What kinds of diapers to use, what brand of stroller and car seat to choose. Is she going to be an attachment parent or practice the cry-it-out method? Formula vs. breast is one of those many decisions, and here are some facts that will hopefully make the choice a little easier for all the new moms out there.

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15 The Nutrition Issue

When it comes to nutrition, many people will argue that breastmilk is better than formula. And the truth is that in many ways it is. Breastmilk contains a unique set of antibodies, vitamins, minerals, and proteins that formula will never be able to replicate, no matter how hard people try. But while it does have a lot of nutritional value, so does formula. Formula may be a man-made drink, but it was made by man to be beneficial to their children when breastfeeding either wasn’t a choice or an option. In fact, formula ups breastmilk in two key areas, being much higher in its iron and vitamin D content than breastmilk is. More often than not, breastfed babies have to take a supplement for either of these nutrients at some point in their life, while formula fed babies do not. Either way, no matter what a mom’s choice is she can’t go wrong in the way of nutrition.

14 The Money Issue

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mom Susan Krepart heard Winnipeg Harvest needed baby formula, so she went on Facebook and asked her friends to give donations.

Mom Susan Krepart heard Winnipeg Harvest needed baby formula, so she went on Facebook and asked her friends to give donations.[/caption]

There’s really no other way to put this: formula is easily a million times more expensive than breastfeeding. Why, you may ask? It’s simple. Breastfeeding is more or less free. It can’t be said that it is completely free to breastfeed seeing as how the mother must up her calorie intake to keep up with her child’s demand, and as a result must purchase more groceries than she had to before she got pregnant. Other than that, breastfeeding has no cost, while formula has a great one. Some of the cheaper formulas run at about ten cents an ounce, which doesn’t sound like a lot at first. But newborns start out eating about thirty ounces a day. Once you do the math that’s ($0.10x30=$3.00) per day, or $21 per week, and that’s just in the beginning and for the least expensive. Then you factor in the fact that your child will grow and inevitably need more formula as well as more feeding supplies, and you’re spending anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 a year on formula feeding.

13 The Bottle Issue

Another thing to consider is whether or not you want to use bottles. If you formula feed, it’s not really an option since that is the only way to feed a formula baby, but if you breastfeed your child than you only need to buy bottles and use them if you decide to return to work (or get a job if you don’t already have one) while you’re still breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding than you might have to be worried about nipple confusion and how well your child will latch when you switch the from the breast to the bottle. This obviously isn’t an issue if you formula feed since all your baby will be latching onto is a bottle nipple. Let's also not forget about making sure bottles are properly sterilized after each use. And then, of course, there's the plastic versus glass debate when it comes to choosing the right bottle.

12 The Break Issue

Moms who formula feed find it a whole lot easier to take breaks from being their child’s primary caregiver. It is really simple to ask their partner, parent, or sibling to make and feed the baby a bottle when they either don’t want to or can’t do it. It also allows for more time spent apart from the baby (hello date night) when the occasion arises. This can still be done if the mother chooses to breastfeed, but it is a lot more difficult than simply handing over the formula to be mixed when needed. The milk must be pumped and stored before use, and the mother has to be careful not to store it for too long. Breastmilk is only good for a few hours at room temp and a few days in the fridge, though it can be stored in the freezer for months. Pumping bottles is always more difficult than actually breastfeeding, since nothing expresses milk better than a baby’s latch. It takes a lot out of the mother, and is something she needs to think about before choosing what feeding method she wants to use.

11 The Bonding Issue

One of the main reasons that mothers choose to breastfeed is the amount of bonding it allows them to have with their newborn child. The truth is that in this area there really is little difference between formula feeding and breast feeding, because no matter what method a mother chooses to use to feed their child there will always be an extremely special mother-child relationship between the two that no one else will ever have or completely understand. The extra time spent skin-to-skin allows for a larger emotional bond. Breastfeeding mothers do have a slightly different experience, because they are literally a source of food and by extension, a source of life for their child. Knowing that makes it a little different from formula feeding, since anyone can give the child a bottle, but only certain people choose to breastfeed.

10 The Gas Issue

Studies have shown that in comparison to babies who have been formula fed, babies who are breastfed have less gas built up in their system. All babies, whether breast or bottle fed, have gas in their system, and this is in part due to the amount of air intake that the baby has during a feeding. Babies who are breastfed take in less air than babies who are fed with a bottle. A mother can remedy this by allowing the bottle to settle before a feeding, in addition to switching the positions she holds the baby in if she notices that one position causes the baby to become gassy. If the baby is formula fed and has excessive gas, she might also want to consider switching what formula she uses to see if the baby might be sensitive to certain ingredients in the formula. Increasing the amount of time spent burping the baby also might lessen the gas build up.

9 The Size Issue

Another thing to think about when choosing between breastfeeding and formula feeding is the fact that studies have shown that women who breastfeed lose the baby weight faster than women who choose to use formula. This is because breastfeeding causes mothers to burn roughly an extra 500 calories per day, in comparison to the regular amount of calories women who bottle feed burn. Naturally, the extra calories lost men that the weight drops off faster. Also, breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract more, resulting in it returning to its original size pre-pregnancy and the stomach shrinking back faster as well. Breastfeeding is not going to magically get rid of all the weight, or the stretch marks, but it certainly does help.

8 The Clean-Up Issue

Despite which way a mother chooses to feed, the fact is that breastfeeding is much more messy. Bottles typically only leak when there is a defect or the lid isn’t screwed on correctly, while mothers who breastfeed can experience leaks at any moment thanks to their hormones. Also, at times when the baby releases his or her latch the mother continues to lactate for a brief period of time. Any mother who chooses to breastfeed needs to be prepared to smell like sour milk at times, in addition to dealing with milk stains on her clothing and on her baby’s clothes. When a person formula feeds there will be a mess because it is normal for there to be a mess, but the messes are bigger and happen more often when a woman breastfeeds.

7 The Intimacy Issue

How a mother chooses to feed their child ultimately has an effect on her relationship with her partner. If she bottle feeds it is only matter of time before her milk supply dries up due to lack of use, and when this happens the mother no longer has to worry about hormonal leaks or changing breast size while in the bedroom. When she does breastfeed, however, there will be some adjustments that need to be made during intimacy. Her partner may not want to be exposed to the breastmilk, and that is okay. Her partner may not mind being exposed to the breastmilk, and that is also okay. Basically, whatever works for the mother and her partner is okay as long as they are okay with it and it works for them, but no matter what method of feeding they choose there will always be a period of adjustment when they start having sex again.

6 The Allergy Issue

Studies have shown that exclusively breastfeeding a baby for the first four months of their life can help prevent the baby from developing allergies. Breast milk contains proteins and substances that can help the baby develop protections against certain things, like allergies, asthma, and even diseases. This is one of the reasons why doctors and hospitals recommend that mothers breastfeed their kids for as long as possible. While formula is nutritious, it does not contain the added proteins or substances that can be found in breast milk. A baby is more likely to develop an allergy if it runs in the family, since allergies can be passed down, and breastfeeding a baby doesn't mean that it will not develop allergies later in life that he or she had not previously had.

5 The SIDS Issue

Lately the campaign against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has grown even larger than it has in previous years, and as a result the number of deaths from SIDS is slowly reducing as awareness increases. SIDS occurs when a baby under a year, who is seemingly completely healthy, dies for no explainable reason. It happens most often with babies who sleep in a crib. For babies who are breastfed at any point in time, the risk of SIDS decreases by at least 60%, and if they are breastfed past two months, the risk decreases by 62%. Formula fed infants are at a greater risk for SIDS than breast fed ones, but new parents must remember that anything can happen, and while breastfed babies do have a lower risk of SIDS, the simple fact is that whatever feeding method a mother chooses they must practice safe sleeping habits.

4 The Mental Health Issue

After giving birth many mothers can suffer from post-partum depression. This tends to make breastfeeding harder because the extra hormone release during a feeding can often compound on the depression and make it worse. Mothers who choose formula over breastmilk aren’t exempt from PPD, but for them it sometimes is not as hard because they can have a break for longer than a few hours thanks to how easy it is to make a bottle with formula. They can get a friend or family member to babysit and have some time to themselves, while even if a breastfeeding mother pumps enough bottles to have a day off she still needs to pump throughout the day to maintain her supply. Also, there is an actual mental condition that causes the mother to have negative feelings towards breastfeeding, because of the hormonal release experienced during the feeding. Any way it goes, whatever a mother chooses, she should have a support system who stands behind her choice.

3 The Supply Issue

One of the main reasons that mothers choose formula feeding over breastfeeding is lack of supply. They either know they won’t produce enough milk or they’re scared they won’t produce enough, and as a result they choose to formula feed rather than risk depriving their child. Maybe the baby is exclusively formula fed or simply supplemented, but there are many different reasons mothers can lack supply, such as poor nutritional and hygiene habits, but sometimes it happens for no particular reason at all. Formula feeding the baby means that parents don’t have to worry about not having enough milk, since there will be a never ending supply as long as they keep buying formula.

2 The Latch Issue

Latch issues are sometimes the reasons why mothers switch from breastfeeding to formula. A baby’s latch refers to the way that they hold the nipple in their mouth, and when it comes to breastfeeding it is recommended that the mother place as much of the nipple and areola in their baby’s mouth as is possible in order to get the best latch and have the most ease with breastfeeding while increasing the flow of the breastmilk. The simple fact is that not all babies want to latch on, whether due to a tongue-tie or some other issue. When a mother formula feeds latch isn’t really an issue, since you don’t need to shove as much of the nipple in and all the baby has to do is suck a little in order to achieve a good flow, depending on the type of nipple selected for the baby.

1 The Public Issue

The biggest issue that mothers have to think about when deciding between formula and breast milk is the issue of dealing with public feedings. When you formula feed your baby all you have to do is mix a bottle and pop it in the baby’s mouth, but when you breastfeed you run the risk of exposing yourself whenever your try to feed your baby in public. Sure, there are breastfeeding covers out there but not all of them are comfortable for the mother or the child, and not all moms want to use them. Legally speaking, a mother is allowed to breastfeed anywhere she is legally permitted to be and is exempt from public indecency laws while breastfeeding. Not everyone agrees with this though, and, moms who breastfeed in public must be prepared to be met with controversy, while moms who formula feed don’t have to worry about dealing with such a thing.

Sources: Babycenter.com, Kidshealth.org, Webmd.com, Americanpregnancy.org, Mayoclinic.org

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