Breast or Bottle

Information on the contentious issue of whether to feed you baby by breast or bottle.

An issue of much contention is whether to feed your baby by breast or bottle. In recent years there has been increasing pressure and demands on women to breastfeed. In an ideal world all mothers would breastfeed and there are many obvious physical and emotional advantages for both the mother and baby. No manufacturer has yet been able to invent anything better than an approximation of healthy human milk. A mother’s own milk adapts to her baby’s individual nutritional requirements.
Healthy human milk contains the delicate balance and quantities of proteins, fats and carbohydrates necessary for your baby’s development.
However for many legitimate reasons a mother may be unable to breastfeed her infant.

Breastfeeding is thought to decrease your baby’s risk of:

  • diarrhoea
  • respiratory infection
  • middle ear infection
  • meningitis
  • botulism
  • urinary tract infection
  • necrotizing enterocolitis
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • lymphoma
  • allergies and food sensitivities
  • There is also evidence to suggest that breastfeeding enhances your baby’s eyesight, speech, intelligence and brain development. Your baby’s brain development continues at a rapid rate for about three years after birth so it is vital that the mother’s milk is healthy and contains the appropriate balance of essential fatty acids and zinc. Since healthy breast milk is undoubtedly the best source of these nutrients many professionals emphasise the importance of breastfeeding for as long as possible. Some professionals believe that your baby is the best judge as to when to stop breastfeeding.

Physical benefits for the mother are abundant during post partum recovery. One reason for this is that the hormone oxytocin, responsible for the "let-down reflex" during breastfeeding, also encourages the contraction of the uterus following childbirth. This "clamping action" aids the reduction of blood loss post delivery.
Breastfeeding is also known to assist weight loss following childbirth and is believed to reduce risks of future osteoporosis, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. (See information on right).Furthermore there is evidence to suggest that babies who are breastfed develop a deep and lasting bond with their mother.Some women cannot, or choose not, to breastfeed. While professionals encourage women to breastfeed their newborn there are some medical circumstances that may compromise the efficient production of healthy milk. If you have any concerns about your medical history and how it may affect your ability to breastfeed, consult your doctor or medical professional. Financial hardship may necessitate a mother having to work while her infant is in care making it difficult to regularly breastfeed. Single mothers living alone and needing to bring in an income may often find themselves without the option of breastfeeding. In more recent years many women in careers have found it necessary to maintain a balance between motherhood and work and have chosen bottlefeeding, or a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding, to accommodate this.

Living in a multi-cultural society it is important to acknowledge the varying pressures facing women which may affect their decisions in feeding their infants. Cultural influences can be significant and complex factors and what may seem normal in one society may be viewed as extreme in another. In some cases a woman may have a partner who does not like her feeding by breast in front of other people and hence there is pressure to conform. It is important that we are tolerant of other people’s circumstances and choices. For a woman who meets obstacles to breastfeeding, it pays to look on the positive side. Feelings of guilt and stress are not conducive to you and your baby’s health. As it is, new mothers face a lot of new challenges. At the end of the day, being relaxed and happy in your environment with your baby will have a positive effect on both of you.

Bottlefeeding, whether it be with breastmilk or formula, brings with it the opportunity and flexibility for your friends, family and partner to share the pleasure of feeding your baby. Using a bottle allows you to know exactly how much you are feeding your newborn and also provides the flexibility of your feeding environment. If you are not breastfeeding for whatever reason, bottlefeeding alone can bring some advantages. These may include less emphasis on dietary requirements, the absence of mastitis, cracked nipples and leaking breasts, and may allow older siblings to feel involved. Some fathers love and look forward to the opportunity to feed their baby.

It is essential that all bottlefeeding equipment is thoroughly sterilised after feeds. Also to be considered is an appropriate formula and teat size to ensure adequate flow.

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