To Breastfeed or Not to Breastfeed?

As you may know there is a constant back and forth emphasis on whether someone should breastfeed or bottle-feed their newborn baby.   Of course,  before formula was “invented”   all mothers breastfed their children,   sometimes up to 2 years or more!   Breast milk is the natural milk  for a baby.   However,  once formulas became popular,  then everyone used formula for their babies–it seemed to be convenient and then everyone else in the family could help with the feeding of the baby.    Now,  studies are coming out indicating that breast milk is still the IDEAL nutritional  food for the baby.   Not only is it   good for the baby–it boosts his or her immune system,  and breastfed babies are thought to be smarter than their formula fed counterparts,   but it is also good for the mother.   Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce heart attack risk by reducing cholesterol plaques  in the blood vessels,  and also reduces the risk for developing metabolic syndrome by helping women loose the weight that they have gained during the pregnancy.   There have also been studies to show that breastfeeding may also lower a woman’s risk for  developing breast cancer, particularly if there is a first-degree relative who had breast cancer.    The risk was decreased by about 59%.

So the question remains,  “To breastfeed or not to breastfeed”.   Well, speaking from an obstetricians point of view,   breast feeding is the way to go—it is natures best option for milk for babies.  Plus it is cheaper—no bottles to heat up in the middle of the night,  no formula to mix up or that smells badly—and always ready and warm.   If  moms could stay home for  6 months to a year after having a baby,  then practically every one who has a baby could breastfeed!    However, you know and I know that moms have to go to back to work about the 6 – 8 week mark,  and so have to wean the baby at that time,  as most jobs are not that flexible to accommodate women so that they can continue to breastfeed even after they return to work.  (Now some women make loads of milk and so can stockpile it in the freezer for the baby for later use,  so the baby will continue to benefit from the breast milk).   Some women just do not make much milk and so that baby has to be  bottle-fed.
There are 7 main advantages to breastfeeding and that is that:
  1. it promotes bonding;
  2. it is a ready made supply;
  3. it is always warm;
  4. it usually suppresses the periods  (but that doesn’t mean a person can’t get pregnant again);
  5. the extra calories burned to make the milk (about 500 cal per day) help with loosing the weight gained during pregnancy;
  6. as the demand for milk increases,  so does the supply; and
  7. colostrum, or the very first milk produced within the first 3 days after the baby is born, is  high in immune factors that protect the baby.
Studies have shown that breastfed babies are healthier than bottle-fed babies,  there are fewer respiratory and gastrointestinal infections  in the first year of life,  there is also a decreased risk for breast cancer in the mother who breast feeds.
There are 9 minor disadvantages to breast feeding and that is that
  1. the mother is the only one who can feed the baby  (unless breast milk is pumped from the breast and stored in advance);
  2. there is no way to know exactly how much the baby eats.   You can only go by wet and dirty diapers, and a measure of the baby’s weight at it’s well checks;
  3. breast milk is affected by the mother’s diet which can affect the flavor or effect on baby.   For example, gas producing foods for the mom, can cause  gas in the baby.  People who breastfeed find out very quickly what bothers the baby;
  4. sometimes breast feeding is painful;
  5. you might not be able to feed the baby in a private place when it gets hungry;
  6. some women don’t loose weight while breast feeding, they gain weight because their appetite has increased a lot;
  7. if you normally have to take certain medications you will need to check with  your doctor if it is safe to take them while breastfeeding;
  8. sometimes your breasts  may leak milk at inopportune times;
  9. hormone levels can be lower while breastfeeding, so intercourse painful for a time due to vaginal dryness.

What are the advantages of bottle-feeding?
  1. Other family member can help feed the baby;
  2. babies sometimes gain weight faster on formula (there is a higher sugar content);
  3. you can begin your birth control sooner  when bottle-feeding.
What are the  disadvantages of the bottle feeding the baby?
  1. The immune system of the baby  is found to be not as good as breastfed babies;
  2. there is a lot of controversy implicating problems with the plastic in the bottles as having an adverse effect  on the health of the baby, particularly in developing ADHD and also affecting hormone balance in the baby;
  3. and there is  more work involved with sterilizing the bottles, heating the milk, etc;
  4. many formulas contribute to gastrointestinal issues with the baby; and
  5. many formulas have an unpleasant odor to them.

Of course,  there is more information in my book,  “A Doctor’s Guide to Pregnancy”  which  is available @   www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.dimensions-of-wellness.com.
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