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  4. Breastfeeding vs Formula-feed: What new mothers should choose? Know benefits of both

Breastfeeding vs Formula-feed: What new mothers should choose? Know benefits of both

Breastfeeding Week 2022: While both breastfeeding and formula feeding have boons and banes, there’s no right or wrong choice, just the healthiest choice for the mother and the baby.

Health Desk Edited By: Health Desk New Delhi Published on: August 05, 2022 13:28 IST
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The debate about what is best for the baby- Breast milk or Formula feeding has always been creating dilemmas for mothers. It’s one of the first important decisions one makes as a new parent. Though the preferred choice is breastfeeding, in the current era with the busy lifestyle, many opt for breastfeeding supplemented with formula feed. 

World Health Organization (WHO), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) strongly recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continuing until the age of 2 years. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that many women who struggle to breastfeed or want to stop it feel embarrassed and ashamed that they are not giving their children the best start in life. 

While one weighs the pros and cons for the same with changing minds, it can be agreed that this can become a hard decision.

Breastfeeding benefits:

  • Free, readily available, and doesn’t require any prep work
  • Provides all the nutrients the baby needs to grow and stay healthy
  • Promotes a healthy digestive system and shows lesser diarrhea and upset stomach
  • Strengthens baby’s immune system protecting against ear infections, pneumonia, bacterial, and viral infections
  • Lowers the risk of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm babies admitted to NICU which increases survival chances and decreases the length of NICU stays
  • Reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)  
  • Research suggests that breastfeeding might boost IQ and may decrease the risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, etc.

For the Mother:

  • Helps in involution of the uterus
  • Burn more calories (additional 600 Cals) and can help with weight loss
  • Keeps the periods from not returning sooner and also decreases excessive menstrual blood loss (as per AAP) which can prevent an iron deficiency after giving birth
  • Promotes the release of Oxytocin, increases bonding with the baby, and also prevents postpartum depression
  • Lowers risk of breast and ovarian cancers, heart disease, and diabetes in later stages of life according to CDC

Breastfeeding challenges:

  • It takes some time to get it right in the first few days/weeks and can also cause uncomfortable issues such as fungal infections and soreness of the nipples
  • No way to measure how much the baby is feeding on. Also, keeping up with a feeding schedule may be difficult to return to work or run errands.
  • Premature babies being underdeveloped makes it harder for them to coordinate suck, swallow and breathe actions, thus having a difficult time breastfeeding
  • Though most of the medications cross the breast milk, it is always wiser to cross-check with the doctor with respect to certain medications

Formula-feed benefits

  • A family member or caretaker can feed the baby and it gives them the chance to bond with the baby
  • Can be tailor-made for the baby and the feed amount can be monitored. Also, formula-fed babies don’t need to feed as often as breastfed babies
  • Lactose-free formulas available for babies with galactosemia

Formula-feed challenges

  • Needs to be made fresh every time with clean water and vessels, at the correct temperature. Bottles, formulas, and rubber nipples can be expensive
  • Doesn’t provide the same protection against infections, diseases, and conditions as breast milk
  • Can cause digestive trouble like constipation and bloat

Takeaway

While both breastfeeding and formula feeding have boons and banes, there’s no right or wrong choice, just the healthiest choice for the mother and the baby. The benefits of breastfeeding are pretty huge, but in times of a demanding schedule that doesn’t allow for flexibility, formula feeding can prove to be beneficial. Getting the facts ahead of time and coming up with your own plan can help ease any stress and anxiety around feeding baby.

(The author is Dr Sujit Ash, Consultant, Gynecology & Obstetrics, P D Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Khar)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)

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