Whether or not to breastfeed is a deeply personal decision that each mother needs to make. Some mothers cannot breastfeed due to medical complications. Others simply opt not to, while others still might try to breastfeed but find that it’s not the best option for them and/or their baby.
So what are some of the things that expecting mothers should consider when deciding on breastfeeding or bottle feeding their newborn? This isn’t meant to sway mothers one way or another, but simply to provide information, insight and different vantage points for both options.
Feeding Time Is For Bonding, Too
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, feeding times with your newborn are an extremely special time meant for bonding between mommy and baby.
Breastfeeding is an intimate way of feeding your child. Because your baby will be nursing, there are many opportunities for skin-to-skin contact. But you can achieve this during bottle feeding as well. Lower the collar of your shirt or unbutton your blouse enough for your newborn’s bare cheek to rest on your chest. When burping your baby, slip your hand beneath their clothes so that your palm is directly on their back. Rubbing gently up and down can help release gas, while also offering a great opportunity for contact.
Both while breastfeeding and bottle feeding, it’s important to talk to your baby. You can stroke their face, hands and feet while speaking to them. Infants recognize their mother’s voice and find it soothing and comforting. Feeding times are the perfect time to chat with your newborn and make plenty of eye contact.
Find What’s Best for Your Baby’s Stomach
A lot can be said for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding in terms of what’s healthiest for your infant. Though breast milk does offer some additional health benefits, most formulas are designed to provide the same level of nutrients your baby needs.
Every baby is different, which means each child’s tolerance to milk and/or formula will be different. If you’re a breastfeeding mother returning to work, you may need to pump or supplement your breast milk with formula. It’s important to slowly introduce your infant to any new types of formula and observe if they have any reactions.
It has been reported that breastfeeding can help your child fight off viruses early on in life due to the naturally designed mix of vitamins, proteins, and fats found in breast milk. But it’s important to note that your baby will still receive all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients it needs from formula.
The Emotional Element
Outside of the medical decision of whether or not to breastfeed your baby, is the emotional component that accompanies this decision. It can be emotional no matter which path you choose, so it’s important to know what to expect.
If you choose not to breastfeed, you’ll be faced with that emotional decision. Some mothers just aren’t comfortable with the concept of breastfeeding, and that’s extremely common and acceptable. But be sure you understand that this decision is completely okay and that you are not harming your baby in any way by not breastfeeding. Millions of newborns are not breastfed and lead happy healthy lives. It’s your choice. There’s no need to feel guilty about it.
If you do choose to breastfeed, just know that sometimes, despite our greatest efforts, things just don’t work out. A wide-range of issues could surface from your baby’s refusal to feed to your inability to produce milk or frustration for both you and baby. Breastfeeding takes time and can be challenging. Try not to place too much pressure on yourself or get discouraged.
A baby will change your life in so many ways. You’ll learn to function on much less sleep, laundry will become your newest hobby and you’ll develop a tolerance for bodily fluids in their various forms. But other things will be affected by your decision to breastfeed or bottle feed.
If you decide to breastfeed, keep in mind that everything you consume, your baby consumes too. This means that you’ll need to limit your alcohol consumption. If you’re sick, be sure to inform your doctor that you are a breastfeeding mother. Most common illnesses such as a cold, stomach bug, or mild fever won’t prevent you from breastfeeding. But the medications you’re prescribed, might. An added benefit of breastfeeding is that you’re burning extra calories, which could aid in dropping some of that postpartum baby weight!
Mothers that opt for bottle feeding also have several things to consider, including the cost of formula. Breast milk is free of charge! Formula can become quite expensive. In fact, one study showed that the average cost of formula can total over $1,700 in 12 months. You’ll also need to decide between powder or liquid formula. The powder form is often cheaper, but it may not be as easily digested.
Often times, both breastfed and bottle fed babies need the same supplies—bottles, bottle warmers, bibs, and burp clothes. Breastfeeding moms might need to invest in a pump depending on their feeding schedule and needs.
Motherhood is Full of Choices
It’s true: it may start with the decision of whether or not to breastfeed your baby, but the road of motherhood is filled with decisions, questions and “what ifs.” An important thing to remember is that you know yourself and your baby better than anyone else in this world. Listen to your gut. Follow your heart. And your motherly instinct will help guide your decisions.
Motherhood may be one of life’s greatest challenges—but also provides one of life’s greatest rewards.