There are a lot of advantages to breastfeeding, both for health and practical reasons, but the decision isn’t always straightforward. Here are a few things you may want to think about before you make your choice.
It can’t be ignored that many leading health organizations, including the UK’s National Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization all recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months.
There’s good reason for this: not only is the strength and composition of your breast milk nutritionally perfect for your baby, it contains antibodies that give protection from infection and allergies. It’s also easier for them to digest, which is why breastfed babies have less wind and diarrhea and are less likely to become constipated. Plus, research suggests they are less likely to become obese children and adults.
Not only is breast milk free, readily available and the right temperature, you won’t have to waste time sterilizing bottles and mixing formula.
Better still, breastfeeding actually helps you get your figure back. Production of the breastfeeding hormone oxytocin encourages your uterus to return to its normal size, plus the actual process uses up an impressive 500 extra calories per day – all while you’re sitting down! And the good news keeps coming: there’s also some evidence suggesting that it slightly lowers your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers.
Find out more about the health benefits.
However, breastfeeding can be challenging. If, for some reason, your baby has problems feeding, your milk production could be affected as milk supply is directly related to demand.
But one of the main reasons that women stop is due to physical discomfort caused by painful, cracked nipples, blocked ducts or infections. You can start looking into breast feeding techniques when you’re pregnant, in order to know what you can do to avoid these sorts of problems once baby comes. Or if these problems persist, your midwife or breastfeeding specialist can help.
There are also a few rare situations in which you shouldn’t breastfeed such as having certain serious conditions like HIV, tuberculosis or severe anemia, or being on some types of medication that may affect breast milk. Check with your doctor if in doubt.
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding and the stress and anxiety are affecting your emotional health, bottle-feeding may be an option.
You may also feel that breastfeeding ties you too much to a routine, especially if you’re planning to go back to work soon. Other advantages of bottle-feeding are that your partner can be more involved with the process, and you don’t have to worry that everything you eat and drink is passed on to your baby.
Once you’ve thought carefully and made your decision, don’t feel guilty about it. Your baby will still thrive on formula milk and contrary to popular myth, it won’t prevent you from bonding.
Hold your baby close, make eye contact and talk softly as you feed them. Parenting is more than breastfeeding and ultimately your child will respond to your love.
* We can only give general advice, but as each pregnancy can vary individually, please contact your gynecologist in case of questions or doubts.