Mothers should understand all the infant feeding options including their advantages and disadvantages. Knowing this will help them figure out which is best to use. It lets them know how they may combine them depending on their schedule and the stage of the baby’s growth. This article will shed more light on the options for feeding babies.
There are 3 infant feeding options available to nursing mothers namely;
- Exclusive Breast feeding
- Exclusive Formula feeding
- Mixed Feeding
Exclusive Breast Feeding
Experts recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. When the baby is ready, at about 6 months, but not before 4 months, solid foods are introduced. Breastfeeding is continued alongside solid foods until baby is 12 months of age. The mother can continue for as long as the baby desires.
Breast milk is the most natural food for human babies because it:
- provides all the nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life
- satisfies hunger and thirst, so no extra water is needed
- protects your baby against infections and diseases
- reduces the risk of allergy in your baby
- is always fresh, clean and safe, and at the right temperature.
Breastfeeding is good for you because it:
- is free, and always available whenever you need to feed your baby
- reduces your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis
- uses up 500 calories per day
- helps your uterus return to normal after childbirth
- prolongs the amount of time before you get your period again
- helps to build a loving bond between you and your baby.
In Australia today, most mothers begin by breastfeeding their baby. Only about half are still breastfeeding at six months, and only about one quarter make it to 12 months. There are many reasons for this, including a lack of support for breastfeeding in many workplaces.
The good news is that any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for your baby.
Challenges of Breastfeeding
When a woman is first starting to breastfeed, her nipples can become tender and her breasts sore as the baby latches on and nurses. Feedings may be painful and hurt. Unlike bottle-feeding, it can be hard to tell how much a breastfed baby has eaten and whether a little one has had enough milk.
One challenge facing mothers is that breastfed babies need to eat more frequently than formula-fed infants. Nursing a young baby can be a time-consuming task.
Since a mother is the sole source of her newborn’s nourishment, some women may feel tied down by nursing or find limited places in public to breastfeed. Her partner can become involved in feedings by bringing the baby to the mother when it’s time to nurse or feeding a bottle of breast milk if she pumps.
Similar to being pregnant, a nursing mother will need to be conscientious about eating a healthy diet. She will also need an extra 400 to 500 calories a day. She needs to modify her lifestyle habits, such as drinking alcohol and smoking, when she is breastfeeding compared with mothers who give their babies formula.
Some women may feel they have failed as mothers if they do not breastfeed. I feel guilty if they decide to switch infant-feeding methods as a baby gets older.
Exclusive formula Feeding
If a mother cannot breastfeed or chooses not to breastfeed, an infant formula should be used.
Modern infant formulas have been developed using breast milk as a reference, so they have similar (but not identical) levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. There are some components of breast milk that it is impossible to copy in a formula, including living cells and enzymes that help protect your baby from illness and infections.
Formula-feeding benefits for mothers and babies
It is a good alternative when breastfeeding is not possible, and it is a more nutritious option for babies than evaporated milk or cow’s milk,
Another advantage of formula feeding is that a woman might be able to arrange an infant-feeding schedule so she doesn’t have to get up at night; instead, a partner or caregiver can give the baby a bottle.
With bottle feeding, a woman and her baby can still enjoy the emotional closeness and bonding experience, but it will lack the special connection of skin-to-skin contact that’s unique to the breastfeeding relationship.
Challenges of bottle-feeding
Bottles and nipples need to be sterilized. If a woman is not using ready-to-use formula, which is more expensive, formula will need to be prepared. Specialty formulas, such as soy-based formulas and hypoallergenic formulas, can also cost more.
Formula doesn’t provide all the specific nutrients that breastfeeding can offer
Babies don’t get the same immune protection that’s found in mother’s milk
Formula-fed babies are three times more likely to have ear infections compared with breastfed infants.
Pros and cons of formula feeding
Advantages of formula feeding include:
- it provides an option in cases where a mother cannot breastfeed
- it provides an opportunity for other members of the family to get involved in feeding and holding your baby
- it can give you a chance to rest
- you have greater flexibility to return to work.
Disadvantages of formula feeding include:
- formula does not have all of the same health benefits for you and your baby as breast milk
- it can be expensive
- mixing the formula is time-consuming
- if it’s not mixed correctly it can cause constipation or other illness in your baby
This feeding method is widely used by nursing mothers who have to combine work with motherhood and as a result cannot be around to breastfeed their babies at all times. It is giving the baby both breast milk and formula from birth till 6 months when the baby can tolerate solid food.
It can be a good compromise if you need to go back to work, but you don’t want to give up breastfeeding.
Skipping breastfeeds can reduce your milk supply. It is important to seek advice from your lactation consultant or child and maternal health nurse if you plan to try this method of feeding.
Whatever method of feeding you end up using, whether it’s breastfeeding or formula feeding, your baby will be receiving the nutrition that they need for healthy growth.