Breast Milk Vs Formula Debate
Less than fifty years ago, physicians were discouraging mothers from breastfeeding. Public opinion at the time was that it wasn’t something that a modern woman did. Rather, it was viewed as something mothers of low socio-economic status did out of necessity. But the tide of both medical and public opinion has turned. Today, mothers feel enormous pressure to breastfeed their infants. The popularity of breastfeeding has even spawned new industries. Special breastfeeding chairs have become an essential item of nursery furniture in many homes. Some breastfeeding advocates go as far as hinting that women who choose not to breastfeed, for whatever reason, are putting their child’s welfare at risk.
There is no question that breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. There is ample medical evidence that breastfeeding has health benefits for both the child and the mother. Breast milk contains disease fighting antibodies which protect the child from bacterial, viral or fungal infections. And, breastfeeding mothers have been shown to have a lower risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. Pediatricians generally advocate breastfeeding infants for at least the first year of their life, if not longer.
For many women, breastfeeding, particularly for a year or more, is neither practical nor feasible. A large percentage of women today, work outside the home. Two-earner families have become the norm, with increasing numbers of those families being dependent on both wages to provide the basic necessities. For women who need to return to work, bottle feeding becomes a necessity. And although some enlightened workplaces have policies in place to accommodate breastfeeding mothers, most do not. Infant formula provides a practical solution for working mothers.
Infant formulas are designed to replicate breast milk as closely as possible and provide all the nutritional requirements for a newborn’s proper growth and development. Most formulas are made from cow’s milk that has been treated to make the protein easier to digest. For babies who are unable to digest lactose or are allergic to milk, soy-based formulas are available.
The decision to breastfeed or use infant formula should be based on what is best in a family’s specific situation. Some mothers choose to do both, breastfeeding while they are on maternity leave, then gradually switching the child to formula as they prepare to return to the workforce. But, mothers should never be pressured or made to feel guilty for the choices they make in regard to this issue. Providing healthy infants are getting love, attention and adequate nutrition, they will grow, develop and thrive regardless of whether they are fed breast milk or formula.