For most mums, breastfeeding is the go-to option. But what if it doesn’t work? The benefits of formula feeding need to be considered to make an informed decision on how to feed your baby. Read about them here!
The benefits of formula feeding are often overlooked. Breastfeeding is the best option to feed your baby –after all, the mummy’s body is able to create the exact nourishment the baby needs. However, that doesn’t automatically turn baby formula into a bad option. Formula feeding has its advantages too, and is a valid option when done correctly.
Baby formula has come a long way: the company Nestle invented it in 1860 and for a while enjoyed being considered as a better option to breast milk. A century and a half later, though, this has been reversed: the fact that breast milk is better for the baby is of general knowledge, and a statement backed by the World Health Organization itself.
During the last few years, there has been a trend that recuperates organic or natural behaviours when taking care of a baby, like the resurface of natural childbirth and alternative methods such as lotus birth (in which the umbilical cord is not cut, but links the baby to the placenta for days, until the cord falls alone).
Breastfeeding is also part of this going back to nature, and since we know how many advantages it has for the baby, usually women who decide not to do it feel judged by those around them. Breastfeeding does have important advantages, such as the special nutrients and defences that provides to the baby, but what about the benefits of formula feeding? They exist too, and we tell you all about them.
The benefits of breastfeeding
We all know that breastfeeding is the best option for a baby: the World Health Organisation and many other institutions encourage it. It is the perfect example of the perfection of a nurturing woman’s body: The new mummy is able to create the exact food the baby needs: sometimes thicker than others, depending on the baby’s needs, and as much as needed: when done properly, breastfeeding will provide with as much milk as the baby needs and the quality the baby needs.
Breastfeeding has many other advantages: mummy keeps transferring antibodies to the baby through the milk, and these help build up the baby’s immune system: he will be extra protected against ear and respiratory infections, meningitis, diarrhoea, allergies, asthma, diabetes and obesity. The baby will be more protected even against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)!
As mentioned before, breast milk is the “perfect food”: besides having a different composition as the baby eats (it starts off as a lighter milk, then gets progressively thicker), the baby is able to taste different things depending on what mummy has eaten, unlike with baby formula. Finally, the immature digestive system of the baby has always less trouble digesting breast milk.
With all these advantages, it is difficult for a mum to refuse breastfeeding, and when they feel forced to do so, the decision usually comes with a load of guilt and frustration. But the benefits of formula feeding exist, too: choosing formula feeding over breastfeeding doesn’t make a mum any worse than the rest. Baby formula is a valid and healthy option!
The benefits of formula-feeding and baby formula
Like we said before, breastfeeding is the most widely recommended for babies. However, that doesn’t mean it is the best option for all the mums! Not all mummies are the same, and breastfeeding may not work for everybody.
Baby formula is a nutritive alternative to breast milk. They try to reproduce breast milk’s composition by combining proteins, healthy greases, sugars and vitamins, and they are manufactured in a sterile and safe place. If you cannot breastfeed your baby, whatever the reason, using cow’s milk or any milk other than formula milk wouldn’t be a safe, nutritive or valid option. But baby formula is! Here are all the benefits of formula-feeding:
- Some relief for the mummy: Since bottle feeding is going to be the choice, mummy can take a rest! The other parent can feed the baby – even the grandparents, uncles or nannies! The task of feeding the baby can be shared, just like all the other tasks the baby demands. And since feeding the baby is such an important moment for bonding, it can make daddy more involved and even help the baby socialise with other family members!
- Flexibility: Since the mummy is no longer indispensable at lunch time, she won’t have to organise the schedule around the baby’s needs – or at least not as much as when breastfeeding!
- Not on demand: Another of the benefits of formula-feeding is that the baby needs to eat less frequently because baby formula requires a slower digestion (even if this isn't a benefit itself). When breastfeeding, the mummy has to feed the baby every time he asks for it. This way, she can have some more planning.
- Finally, another advantage for the surely tired mummy: no more diet worries! You won’t have to be that concerned about what you eat or drink affecting your baby. It’s still important to keep a healthy lifestyle though: your baby will still demand a lot of energy!
The disadvantages of formula-feeding and baby formula
Before making your decision, you need to consider also the disadvantages, and not only the benefits of formula-feeding:
- Breast milk is indeed better than baby formula: it contains antibodies against diseases and infections that are important for the baby and are absent in formula milk. This means that your baby won’t be able to benefit from this extra protection. Besides, breast milk’s composition changes according to the baby’s needs. While there are different types of baby formula to adapt to your little one's age and needs, it is impossible for formula milk to reproduce the easiness of adaptation breast milk has.
- Formula milk may not agree with the baby: Formula fed babies are more likely to suffer from both flatulence and constipation.
- Not so cheap: baby formula is not as convenient as breast milk: you actually have to buy it!
- Organisation issues: Formula feeding requires for you to have a baby feeding equipment that you will have to sterilise every time you have to feed your baby, at least during the first few months. You have to be extra careful with how you handle baby formula. You can’t save any for later unless you use instant formula milk. Even if that’s the case, you need to store it in the fridge and use it within 24 hours. Breast milk is not only the perfect baby food, but it also comes in the perfect place to be stored and prepared! While one of the benefits of formula feeding is that it will give you flexibility, it will also require some organisational skills.
How to make an informed decision
After considering both the disadvantages and the benefits of formula feeding, it’s time to make an informed decision. You could also try to breastfeed your baby and see if it’s the best option for you: there is always time to change your mind. However, you need to consider that sometimes babies who get used to the bottle don’t want to go back to the breast: the teat makes it easier for him to get the milk! This could be an issue if you try a mixed system of breastfeeding and a baby formula supplement. If your baby starts rejecting the breast it could affect your breast milk production: remember that the more the baby eats, the more you produce!
Try to consider what’s best for your baby, but keep also in mind that your body is yours, so the decision is ultimately yours. Some mummies find breastfeeding really hard: sore nipples are a very common problem, and sometimes can end up in deep pain and infections. Some mummies have to face even more serious issues, such as inverted or flat nipples or other specific medical conditions.
If you encounter problems, you don’t need to change to formula feeding right away. You can ask for help to your paediatrician, your midwife or even a lactation consultant. And if the situation doesn’t improve, remember the benefits of formula feeding and don’t feel like you failed. You can raise a strong and healthy child with baby formula as well.