Breastfeeding or Infant Formula? This is One of the Most Heated Topics of New Motherhood—and It’s Time to Stop the Stigma
As a new parent, there are many important decisions to make. One of the most important decisions is to choose whether to breastfeed your child or feed using infant formula. Various research has shown that breastfeeding is the healthiest and most sustainable option for both mom and baby. Health professionals and Malaysia Dietary Guidelines (MDG) recommend that babies are breastfeed only on breast milk for the first 6 month, and then continue to have breast milk as the main part of their diet until they are at least 1 to 2 years old while introducing new food.
However, there are very few reasons that make breastfeeding not possible which include health problems and lack of knowledge having certain beliefs, but with good support and knowledge, most of these can be overcome. For mothers that are unable to latch their baby on the areola but able to produce breast milk, there are many alternatives to make sure that your baby gets the most nutritious breast milk such as pumping your milk into a bottle.
But if you decided to bottle feed instead, fret not, it does not make you any less of a parent. Here are ways in which formula is similar to breast milk: they both provide energy, hydration and nutrients, so your baby will grow whichever milk he is given.
But despite advances in how baby milk powder is formulated and manufactured, it doesn’t come close to matching the health benefits of your breast milk. Human milk has evolved over millions of years to be the perfect food for human babies. It’s much more complex than other mammals’ milk, as it builds our more complex brains and unique digestive and immune systems. Here are some differences between breastfeeding and infant formula.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breast milk naturally has all the nutrients babies need to grow and develop.
- Breast milk has antibodies that can help prevent your baby from getting sick.
- Breastfeeding can help prevent health problems in your baby, such as allergies, eczema, ear infections, and stomach problems.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to be hospitalized with breathing infections.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese or have diabetes.
- Breastfeeding may help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Mothers who breastfeed find it easier to lose weight after pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding may help lower the risk for breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, and certain other diseases in mothers.
- Breastfeeding is also more convenient. You can breastfeed almost anywhere and anytime your baby is hungry. You do not need to make formula before feeding, worry about clean water, or carry it with you when you go out or travel. And you save money on formulas, which can be costly.
- Breastfeeding is the natural, healthy choice for mom and baby.
Breastfeeding and Work
It is easier than ever before to work and continue to breastfeed. Allowing women to breastfeed often leads to less missed time due to illness, and decreased turnover.
Sadly, Malaysia has not yet implemented the rights for mothers to be given time and place to pump unlike many other countries such as the United States.are required by law to be given the time and a place to pump. This does not include salaried employees, though most employers will follow these practices. Some states have even broader breastfeeding laws.
But not all mothers are able to pump their breasts on the job so they can continue to breastfeed. Certain jobs, such as driving a bus or waiting tables, may make it hard to stick to a regular pumping schedule. If you have more than one job or if you travel for work, finding a place and time to pump and store milk may be hard. And, while some employers provide a comfortable place for mothers to pump milk, not all do.
Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems
- Breast tenderness and nipple soreness. This is normal in the first week. It can also take a couple of weeks for mother and baby to learn how to breastfeed.
- Breast engorgement or fullness.
- Plugged milk ducts.
- Not enough milk for the baby's needs. Though many women worry about this, it is rare that a mother will produce too little milk.
- It is well worth doing all you can to overcome breastfeeding challenges. Most mothers find that the early struggles pass quickly, and they settle into a workable and enjoyable feeding routine with their little one.
Health and Safety Issues
- If you are a smoker, it is still a good idea to breastfeed.
- Breast milk can help to cancel out some of the risks to your baby from exposure to smoking.
- If you smoke cigarettes, smoke after breastfeeding, so your baby gets the least amount of nicotine.
- It is safe to breastfeed your baby if you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C. If your nipples are cracked or bleeding, you should stop nursing. Express your milk and throw it away until your breasts heal.
Mothers who should not breastfeed include those who:
- Have HIV or AIDS, as they can pass the virus to their baby.
- Are taking certain medicines needed to treat ongoing health problems. If you take medicines for a health problem, ask your provider if it is still safe to breastfeed.
- Have an alcohol or drug addiction.
There is no question that it is best to feed your baby breast milk for as long as you possibly can, even if it is just for the first few months or so. A small number of mothers are not able to breastfeed. This can be hard to accept, but it does not make you a bad mom. Infant formula is still a healthy choice, and your baby will get all the necessary nutrients.
If you choose to feed your baby formula, there are some benefits:
- Anyone can feed your baby. Grandparents or babysitters can feed your baby while you work or get some well-deserved time with your partner.
- You can get round-the-clock help. Your partner can help out with nighttime feedings so you can get more sleep. This can be a bonus for your partner, giving them the chance to bond early on with their little one. Keep in mind though, if you breastfeed, you can also pump your breasts so your partner can feed your baby breast milk.
- You may not have to feed as often. Babies digest formula slower, so you may have fewer feeding times.
- Remember that everything you do as a mother, your love, attention, and care, will help give your baby the best start in life.