Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding: 4 Tips to Help You Decide - Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3 Part Breastfeeding Series in honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. 

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From the onset of pregnancy, women find themselves bombarded with expectations of being the perfect mother.

We must choose the perfect car seat/stroller, decide whether to use cloth diapers or disposable diaper, design the picture-perfect nursery...

Then, the decisions get even harder—vaccinate or not to vaccinate or delayed schedule... breastfeed or formula feed... organic bath supplies or Johnson & Johnson?

These decisions seem like life-altering decisions that need to be made, and yet all the resources available are so polarized.

You reach out to a girlfriend, and she tells you not to vaccinate your child, or they will have all sorts of behavioral issues. She also dismissively tells you that there is no question—BREAST is best. 

Next, your mom or grandmother tell you that they vaccinated and formula feed all their babies and they all "turned out fine."  They also want time to bond with the baby, so you absolutely must bottle feed.

How do you decide what’s best?

How do you wade through all the conflicting research and opinions from your family and friends to pick the absolute best? 

Absolute Best 

There is no such thing as absolute best. Every mother and every baby is different. Those differences are what help you determine the best course of action. For the average baby and mom, there are tons of benefits to breastfeeding, but the decision is not a one size fits all.

The best thing for you and your child is to ensure 1) everyone (mom and baby) is fed and 2) everyone is taken care of.  Outside of that, it’s a personal choice to decide whether you exclusively breastfeed or formula feed, or do a combination of both (yes, that is an option).

For more on breastfeeding, click here.

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Should I Breastfeed or Formula feed?

This is such a personal question, and I don't believe it's a one size fits all. Some women can't breastfeed, some women don't have the support to facilitate a healthy breastfeeding relationship, and some babies don't do well on formula...

There are so many scenarios that influence what’s best.

Ultimately, breastfeeding is most natural but whether or not it’s best for you and your child just depends.

Tips to Help You Decide

  • Do your own research
  • What are the health benefits for baby and mom
  • Are there cons for either
  • What does the personal investment look like (time spent nursing vs. making bottles, etc...)
  • What is the financial investment (clothes, pump, bottles)?
  • Discuss with your partner/come to an agreement
    • If breastfeeding, how will your partner support you?
  • If formula, who will wake up with the baby and when?
  • If a combination, what dictates when to breastfeed and when to use formula?
  • Determine what is sustainable. If you work for the airlines, finding a time and private place to pump may be very difficult. If you only have 4 weeks of maternity leave, developing a breastfeeding bond might be problematic. If you suffer from PPD (postpartum depression) or other mental health disorders, necessary medication might not allow you to breastfeed. Consider what is feasible and sustainable for you.
  • Be realistic. Your choice to breastfeed or formula feed won't make or break your child. It won't turn them into serial killers or cultivate mental retardation. This decision is important but don't allow it to consume you or negatively influence your worth as a mom. 
  • Questions to Consider

  • Is your choice sustainable? Choosing to breastfeed can be very time consuming if/when you return to work. The laws support your right to take pump breaks, but those breaks might not be enough.
  • What is your goal? Exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, 1 year, 2+ years? Knowing what you want to achieve will help you achieve it.
  • What barriers will hinder your chance to breastfeed? How will you overcome those barriers?
    • Are your spouse and family supportive?
    • Is your job supportive?
    • Do you have an inverted nipple?
    • Are you on certain medications?
  • Do you have a support system available to assist you? For many women, this is a significant reason behind continuing to breastfeed or switching to formula.

Hopefully, these questions to consider and tips help you on your journey to nourishing your child. Remember, that fed is a necessity and your baby needs a happy and healthy momma. How that ultimately happens is up to you.

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