The pros and cons of breast feeding

The pros and cons of breast feeding as opposed to formula feeding has been debated for many years and it appears that this will continue for some time to come. According to most breast feeding is best for a baby but modern formulas contain many nutrients vital to the good health of the child. Either way is beneficial and the choice ought to be left for the mother to decide.

Most mothers would agree their first choice would be breast feeding but in some cases this is not possible. There are a variety of reasons for this and may include breast infection, HIV infection, prior surgery, previous radioactive treatments, a lack of natural milk, an inability of the baby to suckle, lifestyle and family conflict and work difficulties.

In these circumstances the natural alternative to breast milk is infant formula. Made especially for the baby, most brands contain the nutrients needed for the baby’s growth and future development. Most babies can be given and will accept the formula in a bottle in their first months.

Feeding by bottle does have certain advantages and anyone besides the mother can attend to this regardless of what time of the day it is. The father or partner can become involved in this most important time in an infant’s life. Another advantage is the period between feeds is much longer as the digestion takes a longer period as compared to breast milk. The mother has more time on her hands and the feeding can be done by others.

Bottle feeding is also ideal for any intake monitoring purpose and in very extreme cases any medication prescribed by a doctor may be given through the bottle. Finally the mother can resume her normal life far quicker without having to take care of what she consumes, be it medication or other fluids.

There are also disadvantages to bottle feeding and the main issue with formulas is the quantities and mixing required. Bottles and teats require thorough sterilisation before use and should be kept in a sterilising fluid when not in use. Antibodies that exist in mother’s milk is absent in formulas making the infant far more susceptible to illness. Another factor to consider is the relative high cost of formulas.

Babies on formula feeds may develop wind and constipation problems and may also suffer from constipation. There are many formula brands on the market both in powder form or ready prepared. An iron based formula could be considered which is very beneficial to a baby in its first year. Above all it is important to prepare the formula correctly and to remember to keep all utensils in a clean and sterile state.