I was one of those moms who both breastfed and bottle fed. I exclusively breastfed my babies until six months. By the time they were 6 months old, all three of my babies had more teeth than just the bottom two they got by 5 months, which made me anxious about being bitten which is not a pleasant feeling by a long shot. To keep the bonding experience positive, I began to move my babies onto formula.
Do I prefer one above the other? No. Each has their place. What is more important is making guilt-free making decisions for both yourself and your baby. Let’s be honest, your children are not going to be talking about whether or not they were breastfed or bottle fed. In fact, it will be the last thing on their mind. All your children will care about is your love for them and the bond that they have with you from birth and for the rest of their life.
Yes, the American Pediatric Association (APA), World Health Organization (WHO) and other medical institutions champion breastfeeding as the best way to feed your baby. They encourage exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is 6 months old, better still if you are able to breastfeed until an infant is twelve months old, by which point mothers can continue if desired.
However, these organizations are not raising your baby, you are. As parents, you and your partner need to decide what will work well for you and your family. You may choose not to breastfeed out of personal preference or if situations arise and you find yourself unable to breastfeed, then it’s OK.
What you need to know about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding your baby has several benefits because of the properties of the milk:
- The temperature is perfect
- Convenience as it’s readily available when your baby wants/needs it
- No preparation time
- Full of the mother’s antibodies and other nutrients which help the baby fight off infections and stay healthy
- Your baby decides how much milk to consume
- Easily digested and absorbed
- Adapts to meet your baby’s needs
- May help you lose pregnancy weight
- Breastmilk can be applied to rashes, eczema or even used as a nipple cream for cracked nipples
- Helps the uterus contract back to its regular size after birth giving mom her pre-pregnancy body back faster
Breast-feeding also has some disadvantages:
- The mother is the only one who can feed the baby
- The mother cannot drink alcohol
- The mother has to watch her diet: babies react differently to certain foods. Often these reactions result in stomach cramps or colic symptoms
- Helping your baby latch correctly in the first few weeks can be challenging and a lactation consultant may be needed
- You may need to pump breastmilk for bottle feeds if you are away or working
- Blocked ducts and engorgement can occur especially in the first 6 weeks as your breasts are adjusting to feeding and your baby’s demand for milk
What you need to know about bottle feeding
Bottle feeding has several benefits:
- Anyone can feed your baby
- Your partner can participate in the feeds which may help him form a bond with the baby more quickly
- You and your partner can share the night feeds which will help you both get more sleep
- Since formula is heavier than breast milk, you won’t need to feed your baby as frequently as you would with breastfeeding
- You an eat and drink what you like
- Your body is your own again
- You regulate how much milk your baby drinks during a feed
Bottle feeding also has some disadvantages:
- You have to prepare a bottle
- The baby may have an intolerance to the formula or struggle with constipation
- Can be pricey with costs varying depending on the available brands
- Having to sterilize bottles and nipples
- The milk lacks the mother’s antibodies and is not as nutrient rich and complex as breast milk
Making your choice
Whether you decide to breastfeed or bottle feed, your baby will form a deep bond with you. The type of feeding you choose to use will not rob you of that bond nor will it restrict you from having skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Your choice is entirely personal and tailored to the needs of your family.
Being well-informed will go a long way to helping you choose between bottle feeding and breastfeeding. I encourage you not to rush your decision: instead, take your time and do sufficient research, talk to your partner, and consult with your doctor or lactation consultant. You may want to wait until you have had your baby before deciding which route to take.
Whatever you decide, staying flexible will help you to go with your baby’s needs. Trust your motherly instincts. Your decision will be the best for your baby because you will have made it out of love.