In my previous article, I talked about the benefits and limitations of breastfeeding your baby. In this article, I will be talking about the benefits and challenges of formula feeding your baby. Hopefully by the end of reading, this you will be able to make an informed decision about whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby.
Infant formulas that are commercially prepared serve as a great alternative to breast milk because their nutrition value is high. Formula milk might even contain some nutrients and vitamins that breast milk does not contain hence breastfed babies need to take supplements for those nutrients and vitamins.
Commercial formulas are prepared under sterile conditions. They attempt to be as similar to breast milk as is possible but are still not quite a match. A complex combination of sugars, fats, vitamins and proteins is used to create formula milk. It is not possible to create it at home, so if you do not breastfeed your baby, use only commercial formula milk and do not try to make your own formula milk at home.
Other than medical reasons that could prevent a new mother from breastfeeding, for some women breastfeeding could be too stressful or difficult. Here are some other reasons why a mother might opt for formula feed over breastfeeding her child:
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1. No need to worry about your diet
Since you are formula feeding, you do not need to worry about what you are eating and drinking and the impact it may have on your baby. You also do not need to worry about nursing your child in the middle of the night. All you need to do is keep the bottle ready before hand, warm it up a little and give it to your baby. It allows for flexibility. After preparing the formula milk, a mother does not have to worry about being with the baby all the time. She can leave the baby with her partner or another caregiver and she doesn’t worry about baby’s feed. Now there is no need for the mother to schedule her routine around the baby’s feeding schedule. Furthermore, while in a public place, mothers who formula feed do not need to worry about finding a private space to nurse their child.
2. It is convenient
Anyone can formula feed the baby. The father of the child or elder siblings of the baby can prepare the milk and give the bottle to the baby. This is also true for pumped breast milk. Formula feeding the baby lets your partner share in the responsibility of feeding the baby and also allows them to bond with the baby while feeding him.
3. Baby needs to be fed less frequently
You can reduce many feeds per day since formula milk is not more digestive than breast milk.
4. Challenges of Formula Feeding
When you are deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed your child here are a few challenges of formula feeding that you need to keep in mind:
(a) Planning and organization is required
Breast milk is always available in an unlimited quantity. You don’t need to prepare or warm it. On the other hand, formula feeding requires that you plan and organize your baby’s feed so as to make sure that it is available when needed. Parents need to buy formula and make sure they always have some at hand so as to avoid late-night trips to the grocery store.
Furthermore, it’s important to have all the necessary things e.g. bottles and nipples clean and easily accessible whenever needed, or else your baby will be very fussy while he waits for his feed to be prepared. Since baby needs to be fed at least 8-10 times in 24 hours, parents could get very overwhelmed if they haven’t planned and organized everything properly.
(b) Formula might produce gas and result in constipation
Formula-fed babies could have more gas and firmer bowel movements as compared to breastfed babies.
(c) No antibodies in formula milk
Formula milk does not have any of the antibodies that are present in breast milk. So if you opt to formula feed your baby, your baby will miss out on the added protection against illnesses and infection that is provided by breast milk.
(d) Formula is expensive
Formula milk is very costly. The least expensive formula milk is a powdered formula, then comes concentrated formula and the most expensive is a ready-to-feed formula. Specialty formulas such as hypoallergenic and soy cost a lot more that basic formulas. During the first year of the baby’s life, the cost of formula can be about as high as $1500.
(e) Formula milk cannot match composition of breast milk
Formula milk attempts to duplicate breast milk but its composition is a far cry away from that of breast milk. Breast milk changes as the needs of the baby change and there is no way, formula milk can imitate that.
5. Deciding whether to Breast Feed or Formula Feed
The decision of whether to breastfeed your baby or formula feed him is quite a difficult one. You will only really be able to decide what is best for you and your family once the baby has been born. Often times, before the baby is born, mothers make up their mind to breastfeed their baby. But once the baby is born they have to change their mind due to some health concerns such as infections.
Sometimes you decide one thing before the birth of the baby but end up choosing the other once the baby is born, or in the months after the baby is born. Furthermore, many women breastfeed their child but supplement the feed with formula because they feel that is the best option for their child as well as for their lifestyle.
When you are in the process of making the decision and are weighing the pros and cons, do take out some time and talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. Healthcare specialists will be able to guide you about the options available and help you make a decision that is best for your family and lifestyle.
Also read Pros and Cons of Bottle Feeding