For years, we’ve heard the saying, “breast is best” when it comes to feeding infants.
Most experts agree, but many mothers cannot, or would prefer not to breastfeed, instead choosing a commercially prepared baby formula as their child’s primary source of nutrition.
Babies grow and develop well on formula, which has become more nutritionally complete through the years.
The Convenience Factor…
Mothers who choose to use baby formula often cite convenience as a major reason.
Working mothers can comfortably leave their child with a caregiver and never have to worry that they have not been able to pump a sufficient amount of breast milk to satisfy the baby’s appetite while they are away.
It can also be a great relief for exhausted new mothers to be able to have their partner assist in feedings, taking turns getting up for middle of the night duties.
Some breastfeeding mothers use commercially prepared infant formula as a supplement to their breast milk, which allows them the best of both worlds.
They can offer their babies they undeniable advantages of breast milk while affording themselves the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their babies will have an alternate meal available, even if the supply of pre-pumped breast milk has been consumed.
This is an especially useful strategy for mothers who must regularly leave their baby in someone else’s care while they are at work.
The downside to formula, when it comes to convenience, is that unlike breastfeeding mothers, who always have a ready meal for their babies, formula must be prepared, toted, and stored safely until needed.
At that time, it must be warmed since very few infants will gladly accept cold formula.
Formula – The Advantages…
Unlike breast milk, the taste and quality of formula remains consistent and is not dependent on the mother’s dietary choices.
Nursing mothers often must limit their intake of spicy foods, certain vegetables, and chocolate (yikes!) since these things can have a negative effect on her milk and upset her baby’s digestive system.
Mothers who formula feed their babies can eat freely and can even enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner, if they choose.
Formula digests more slowly than breast milk, so formula fed babies remain satisfied longer and require less feedings than their breastfed peers.
For busy parents and caregivers, the extra time between feedings can be helpful, especially if they have several children to look after.
Mothers who choose to breastfeed must be careful about taking medications, which can sometimes cause the mother to postpone treatment for an illness. This is not an issue for formula feeding mothers.
And The Disadvantages…
Cost is a major disadvantage when choosing formula over breast milk. In addition to the formula itself, which can be quite costly, formula fed babies need a few additional supplies.
Bottles, nipples, a bottle sterilizer, sterilized water, and bottle cleaning brushes must all be purchased.
The cost can be considerable, especially compared to breastfeeding, which adds little to no expense to the family’s budget.
The nutritional quality of formula, although good, cannot compare to that of mother’s milk, which provides antibodies to help guard the baby against infection and illness.
This is probably the biggest disadvantage of formula, but most doctors would agree that modern commercially manufactured baby formulas are high quality and provide adequate nutrition for a growing baby.
Infant and baby formula manufacturers produce a consistently high quality product, regardless of brand. If you read the labels on the major brands, and even on the off brands, you will not find many variances. Some are milk based while others are made from soy.
Some formulations contain iron, some do not. If you choose to formula feed, your child’s paediatrician will be able to offer advice on which type of formula is recommended for your baby.
Don’t be surprised if you try a few before settling on the one that best suits your baby’s individual needs, however, since most babies tolerate different formulas in different ways.
Whether you breastfeed or choose formula for your infant depends of a number of factors. The most important thing is finding what works for you.