Pregnancy Tips

Bottle or breast - what's best ?

Bottle or breast - what's best ?

Breast is best – or is it? Breast milk is supposed to make your baby healthier or brighter, claims which potentially can lead to feelings of shame and inadequacy if you are unable to breast feed for whatever reason. But choosing to breastfeed or bottle-feed is a personal decision and both have pros and cons.

When I had my son, I initially struggled to breast feed with an oversupply of milk. The poor little mite was drowning in the stuff causing much distress to both of us. Fortunately, I had a very encouraging and understanding midwife who helped me through those early first days when I was all for throwing in the towel and switching to formula. Once we both understood the process, we got on famously and it was an experience I enjoyed not to mention the convenience of being able to offer milk on tap.

Women do need help figuring out how to get breastfeeding to work, as I did, managing the milk supply, as I did, they need help with cracked and bleeding nipples as I did ….. It’s a common narrative among breast-feeding mums and if the support is there it can work, and when it does work, it’s a truly wonderful experience. But down the years the issue has been controversial with judgements made on parents whatever their choices. There is no right or wrong way but whatever is the healthiest choice for you and your baby is the end goal. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of breast and bottle feeding.

Breast milk is good for baby and you, with milk available when baby needs it, and contains all the nutrients needed to keep a baby healthy including colostrum which comes in the first few days of the birth – and it’s free. It also helps build immunity against viral and bacterial infections, pneumonia and ear infections and boosts a healthy gut, cutting down on tummy upsets and diarrhoea. Research also suggest it may boost a baby’s IQ over those babies who are bottle fed and potentially protects against asthma and allergies.

It can also be beneficial to a new mum, helping develop a close bond with baby as a result of promoting the good hormones, like oxytocin, while milk production burns calories and helps with weight loss and getting back to pre pregnancy size as well as preventing iron deficiency.

The longer you can breastfeed the better, but the recommendation from the health experts is also that you do it for as long as you’re able while still feeling comfortable.

The disadvantages are the early day challenges you face, potentially discomfort in the first few days or weeks while you are establishing the routine and that there is no way to establish how much the baby is drinking. You will also need to watch your intake of medication, caffeine and alcohol which could be passed through to the baby in the milk. Babies eat frequently and, already tired, you are in constant demand with often no respite – apart from pumping when you can then hand the feeding over to a responsible adult !

Bottle feeding with formula will mean having more flexibility with other family members being able to help out and bond with baby and fewer feeds as bottle fed babies don’t eat as frequently plus you can see how much your baby is taking.

The arguments against bottle include the prep work involved in sterilising bottles, preparing the formula and getting the temperature right plus the expense involved. Formula does not provide the immunity that breast milk gives a new born and can cause digestive trouble like constipation and wind. Whatever you and your partner decide on, your decision should be supported by health workers – support and help should be there for women who want to find out if breast feeding works for them and conversely if not, there to support those who choose the formula option without shaming them. A happy and healthy baby and mum is what matters.