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Bonding with your newborn is one of the most rewarding experiences of being a parent—and feeding time is paramount to this process. Though there are many benefits to breastfeeding, how you feed your baby is a decision only you can make.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfed babies are less likely to experience bacterial and viral infections, allergies, asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
“Breast milk is created from the proteins, fats, vitamins, carbs and any antibodies from your bloodstream,” said Lauren Bortner BSN, RNC, IBCLC, Inspira lactation consultant. “When you breastfeed, not only is your baby getting a customized meal, but also antibodies to illnesses they can’t yet get vaccinated against.”
As your baby grows, your body changes its breast milk components to ensure your baby is getting the right nutrients at the right time. But breastfeeding doesn’t just benefit the baby’s developmental process, it also helps with the parent’s postpartum recovery and is proven to lower your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Although your body is experiencing a psychological and physical rollercoaster when you breastfeed, you are burning extra calories, which can result in weight loss. Breastfeeding also releases hormones that lower your risk of postpartum depression and helps your uterus recover,” said Bortner.
The Benefits of Bottle-feeding
Despite the mutual health benefits that breastfeeding provides, it’s not the only way to feed your baby. Bottle-feeding, either with pumped breast milk or FDA-approved and iron-fortified infant formula, is a common alternative for those who can’t or choose not to breastfeed.
“Iron generates hemoglobin, the protein that circulates oxygen from red blood cells throughout the body. Babies have enough iron in their systems for the first four months. Until babies can eat iron-rich foods at the six month mark, parents who exclusively breastfeed sometimes have to give their baby an iron supplement. You may not have to if your formula contains enough iron,” said Bortner.
Many expecting parents look forward to enjoying a glass of wine or eating their favorite foods again after they give birth; however, returning to those culinary comforts are still on hold for nursing parents. With formula-based feeding, parents don’t have to worry about not being able to take medication, eat certain foods or be constrained to a specific feeding schedule as nursing parents do.
The Best Feeding Method
When it comes to deciding how you want to feed your baby, the best feeding method is the one that serves you the greatest.
“Some parents see breastfeeding as an exciting opportunity to provide for their children, and others see breastfeeding as a painful, time-consuming and exhausting process—not to mention that in some instances, breastfeeding isn’t even an option,” said Bortner. “We need to reframe the idea that you are a bad parent if you don’t breastfeed, because the truth is, being a good parent means setting yourself up for success to provide for your child in every way possible.”
Weighing the pros and cons of your feeding options can be overwhelming, but you’re never alone. Inspira offers a variety of support services when it comes to breastfeeding, including: a post-partum support group, outpatient appointments and even a "Warmline” if you need help with feeding complications.