After bringing your little bundle of joy into the world and gazing in wonder at their rosy pink perfection, you have an important decision to make – whether to breastfeed or formula feed. The best way to go about making that crucial decision is to be well-informed about what breastfeeding entails; the advantages as well as disadvantages.
There are plenty of advantages to breastfeeding for both you and your baby, including:
Nutrition – Breast milk contains all the necessary vitamins, minerals, amino acids, sugars, and fats that your baby needs to develop. One difference between most baby formulas and a mother’s breast milk is that breast milk contains high levels of cholesterol whereas formulas are generally cholesterol deficient. Cholesterol is a key player in brain development for your baby and provides the foundation for hormones, among other things. Breast milk also bolsters your baby’s immune system by providing antibodies which can help fight infection.
Expense – Breastfeeding is a significantly cheaper option than formula feeding. As long as the mother maintains good nutrition, including vitamin supplements, she can provide her baby with nutritious and free breast milk.
Closeness – Many mothers who strongly advocate for breastfeeding extol the strong emotional bond that is formed between the mother and her baby. Studies have linked this closeness to hormones released during nursing.
While there really aren’t any disadvantages to breastfeeding for the infant (assuming there is ample breast milk and an intact suck reflex), there may be some aspects of nursing that prove less than desirable to mothers.
Time – Busy mothers may find that breastfeeding is too much of a drain on their daily schedules, especially since no one else can feed the baby. Breast fed babies also tend to wake up more frequently throughout the night which can mean a poorly rested mommy in the morning.
Discomfort – Breastfeeding can be a bit messy and uncomfortable. Nipple chaffing, breast soreness, and general fatigue are common complaints from nursing mothers.
What to Eat
If you do choose to breastfeed, you will need to monitor your diet to ensure that you produce nutritious milk for your baby, and also have enough energy for yourself at the same time. It is common for mothers to feel hungry more frequently when they are breastfeeding. This is because your body must work harder to produce breast milk for. Generally, breastfeeding mothers require an additional 200 to 500 calories per day. Rather than counting calories, you should pay attention to your body’s hunger cues and include lots of fruits, vegetables, and vitamin-rich foods in your diet. Staying well hydrated is also crucial.
What to Avoid
Caffeine consumption should be limited (around 300mg daily) because it will be passed on to your baby through your breast milk. For the same reason, alcohol consumption should be avoided. There are no specific foods you need to avoid while nursing, but pay close attention to how your baby reacts to certain foods, and eliminate anything that seems to make your baby gassy or irritable after nursing.
Do Your Homework
The most important thing to remember when deciding whether or not to breastfeed is that everyone is different. What may be best for someone else and their child might not be the best thing for you and your child.
You always make well-informed decisions when it comes to your baby’s health, and choosing whether or not to breastfeed should be no exception. Be sure to put the same time and thought into it as you would any other decision about your baby’s future. Talk with your doctor and do plenty of your own research before you make this important decision.
David Cormier is a blogger for Americord, a cord blood banking service whose goal is to make cord blood banking affordable for all families.