Deciding between breastfeeding and formula feeding is one of the first choices a new mother faces. It is a very personal choice, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you which is right for you. However, it is important to make an informed decision, and understanding the benefits of breastfeeding may help you decide. Numerous studies have concluded that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a newborn and is beneficial to both you and your baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Baby
• Colostrum, the first milk that comes in during late pregnancy and right after the birth of your baby, is often referred to as “liquid gold” because just a fee drops contain all the nutrients your baby needs, as well as antibodies that may help protect your baby against illness.
• Breastfeeding may help reduce the risk of gas, bloating, and fussiness caused by an upset stomach because breast milk is much easier for a newborn to digest than cow’s milk. Sometimes breastfeeding mothers are surprised by how quickly a newborn can digest breast milk and be hungry again!
• Overall, babies who are breastfed have a lower incidence of respiratory infections and ear infections.
• Preliminary research indicates that breastfeeding may also help prevent Type 1 diabetes and childhood leukemia. And new studies about other health benefits of breastfeeding are being published all the time.
• Another great benefit of breastfeeding is that breast milk naturally changes as your baby grows. Even as toddlers, breast milk is packed full of nutrition and antibodies – it’s even more concentrated at this age because your child is breastfeeding less.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for You
• The financial benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh those of formula feeding. Formula can be very expensive. Add in the cost of bottles, extra nipples, and other supplies, and it becomes far more costly than breastfeeding. Even if you have to pay for a pump and a few bottles for the times that you can’t breastfeed, you will still be paying less overall.
• Less time preparing bottles, cleaning them after use, and sterilizing them means more time to spend with your baby as a breastfeeding mom. It also means more sleep for you because you don’t have to stumble out of bed to prepare a bottle for those middle of the night feedings.
• According to studies, there is a link between breastfeeding and a lower incidence of several diseases in women, including Type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
• A study out of Britain has even found that the more a mother breastfeeds, the more protection she gains against developing Alzheimer’s disease.
• Breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression, as the skin-to-skin contact and the mothering hormones released by breastfeeding can help increase the bond between you and your baby.
While breastfeeding is scientifically proven to be more beneficial to both you and your baby, choosing to formula-feed your baby does not make you a bad mother, nor does it mean your baby will not grow to be happy and healthy. Remember that the choice is yours, and yours alone. You should not feel pressured to breastfeed if you feel it is not the right choice for you.
Updated January 2014 by Kimberly