Deciding whether to formula feed or breastfeed the baby is one of the crucial decisions expectant mothers make before giving birth. Organizations such as World Health Organizations (WHO), American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American Dietetic Association recommend breastfeeding as the best option for the newborn. Most of this organizations and other supporters of breastfeeding affirm that it defends the baby against infection, reduces the risks of certain chronic conditions and prevents allergies. According to Brown, Isaacs and Lechtenberg (23), babies need to be fed on breast milk for the first half a year. Beyond this period, Clark (32) encourages feeding on breast milk for not less than 12 months. Regardless of experts’ belief that breastfeeding is the suitable nutritional choice for babies. Some women might not be able to breastfeed. For several women, the choice to formula feed or breastfeed relies hugely on their level of comfort, medical considerations and lifestyles. Infant formula is the suitable alternative for mothers who might incapable of breastfeeding. Feeding the baby formula guarantees that the nutritional needs of the baby be met. In addition, the mother will still be capable of bonding with the baby. The choice to formula feed or breastfeed seems to be an extremely personal one. In this regard, this paper attempts to compare and contrast the two ways of feeding newborns in order to establish the best one.
Breastfeeding plays a pivotal role in fighting infections. According to Riordan and Wambach (78), the antibodies passed from the mother to the baby can assist in lowering the risks of contracting some condition such as ear infections, respiratory infections, diarrhea and meningitis. Breastfeeding also protects the baby from infection by significantly contributing to the immune system of the baby. Breastfeeding achieves this by improving the barriers to infections and decreasing the growth of viruses and bacteria. According to Brown, Isaacs and Lechtenberg (45), breastfeeding is beneficial for babies since it safeguards against asthma, obesity, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
The second advantage of breastfeeding is its nutritional value and ease of digestion. Breastfeeding is frequently referred to as perfect food for digestive system of the baby. Breast milk contains components such as protein, lactose, and fat, which are easily digestible by the immature digestive system of the baby. According to Clark (45), infants fed on breast milk have less difficulty with digestion than babies fed on formula. Breast milk seems to be easily digested, which implies that breastfeed babies have fewer diarrhea instances. Breast milk also comprises of various minerals and vitamins required by the newborn, including vitamin D produced by the skin. Nevertheless, exposing the newborn to the sun might increase the risk of skin damage.
The third advantage of breast milk is that it is free. It is evident that breast milk does not cost any money (Brown, Isaacs and Lechtenberg 45). On the other hand, formula feeding increases the cost of bringing up the baby. In addition, due to the antibodies and immunities passed onto the babies, they fall sick less often than babies fed on formula. According to researchers, babies fed on breast milk utterly have few episodes of ear infections. This implies that the mother makes few visits to the doctor, which translates to less money for over-the-counter medications and prescriptions.
Breastfeeding has some convenience. Breastfeeding mothers do not have to take last minute rush to buy formula. This is because the milk is always fresh and available. Additionally, when breastfeeding, there is no need to warm up the bottle in the late night (Clark 45). Breastfeeding mothers are flexible enough to go out and about with their babies because breast milk is always available.
However, breastfeeding has various disadvantages. The first challenge related to breastfeeding is personal comfort (Clark 76). Usually many mothers do not feel comfortable with breastfeeding. Latch-on pain seems to be usual for the first week of breastfeeding. The pain lasts less than a minute for every breastfeeding. It is recommended that the mother should seek medical help if the pain persists. Most of the times, the pain can be dealt with by using suitable techniques. Sometimes the pain might imply that there are some infections.
The second challenge of breastfeeding is time and frequency of feeding. It is evident that breastfeeding needs significant commitment from the mothers (Brown, Isaacs and Lechtenberg 55). Some mothers have affirmed that nursing makes it hard for them to travel, work or make errands. This is due to the breastfeeding schedule or the need to pump the milk during the day. Babies fed on breast milk need to eat more frequently than those fed on formula, since breast milk digests faster. This is quite tiring to the mother who might find herself in demand for every 2 or 3 hours.
Breastfeeding mothers have to be very careful about what they consume as food (Clark 34). This is because the food consumed might be passed onto the baby. Breastfeeding women need to avoid food containing mercury and limit the consumption of mercury fish intake. The intake of caffeine should be limited to no more than 300 mg each day. This is because caffeine causes some irritability and restlessness in some babies.
Other maternal medical conditions, breast surgery and medicines might pose problems during breastfeeding (Clark 66). Medical conditions like HIV/AIDS or those involving chemotherapy might make breastfeeding unsafe. As such, mothers need to check with the doctor concerning the safety of taking medications while breastfeeding.
Mothers can feed their babies on formula. Formula feeding has various advantages over breast milk. Formula feeding has the advantage of convenience (Brown, Isaacs and Lechtenberg 56). The mother or another caregiver can feed the newborn at any given moment, though this also true for mothers who pump their breast milk. This enables the mother to share the duties of feeding. Fathers can also participate in the feeding of the baby, unlike in breastfeeding where the mother is the only one involved in the feeding.
Formula feeding, unlike breastfeeding, comes with flexibility. A formula-feeding woman can leave the newborn with a caregiver or a partner. According to Clark (67), there is no need to pump the milk or schedule work and obligations around the feeding schedule of babies. Formula-feeding mothers do not need to look for a private place to feed their babies. Nevertheless, if a mother is active with the baby, she will need to supplies for making babies.
Another advantage of formula feeding is associated with time and frequency of feedings. Since formula seems to digest slower than breast milk, babies fed on formula often eat after long intervals of time. In addition, women feeding their babies on formula do not need to worry about the food they consume that will affect their babies (Clark 45).
Formula feeding also has some disadvantages. Formula lacks the important antibodies present in breast milk. This implies that formula does not offer the baby with the additional protection against illnesses and infections. Formula is expensive since it needs to be bought. Powdered formula is the least expensive. Ready-to-feed is the most expensive. According to Brown, Isaacs and Lechtenberg (71), the cost of formula feeding can add up to about 1500 dollars during the first year of life.
Formula can result in constipation and the possibility of producing gas. According to Clark (71), babies fed on formula might have firmer bowel movements and more gas than children fed on breast milk. According to Riordan and Wambach (71), formula cannot match the complexity of breast milk.
In conclusion, breastfeeding is appropriate for babies. However, for any nutritional choice by the mother, it is important to consult the doctor about the choice. Breastfeeding should be preferred over formula feeding, though in circumstances where the mother cannot breast, because of complications, she can resort to formula feeding. The major advantage of breastfeeding over formula feeding is the transfer of antibodies to the baby through breast milk. The antibodies are significant in protection of the baby against infections.
Brown, Judith, et al. Nutrition through the life cycle. New York: Cengage Learning, 2011.
Clark, Shonna. Breastfeeding vs. Bottlefeeding. 22 October 2008. 23 April 2013 <http://voices.yahoo.com/breastfeeding-vs-bottlefeeding-2058599.html>.
Riordan, Jan and Karen Wambach. Breastfeeding and human lactation. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2010.