Choosing to breastfeed or formula feed your newborn can sometimes be a difficult choice. I’m here to tell you no path is the wrong one. Women tend to get opinions and judgement from various friends and family members (and sometimes strangers) on what is right for the baby. Just like diet, there is no “one size fits all” way to feeding your baby. There may be instances where women are unable to produce enough milk and may need to supplement with formula or unable to breastfeed at all due to a medical condition. Other women may be able to produce enough to exclusively breastfeed. What matters most is making sure your baby receives the appropriate amount of nutrition he or she needs and this can be achieved through breastfeeding and/or formula feeding.
In 2011, August was declared National Breastfeeding Awareness Month by the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). The 2017 theme is “Charting the Course Together” which will focus on “how we can use data and measurement to build and reinforce the connections between breastfeeding and a broad spectrum of other health topics and initiatives”. The goal is to raise awareness and advocate for practice changes of breastfeeding in the public health agenda. As this month is dedicated to breastfeeding, that will be the big focus of this post.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months followed by a combination of breastfeeding and introduction to complementary foods until 12 months as able. There are many benefits to breastfeeding for both mom and baby whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or supplementing breastmilk with formula:
Health benefits for mom:
- Reduced risk for postpartum depression4
- Reduced stress4
- Decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancer4
- Quicker recovery from birth including reduction in uterus size and decreased postpartum bleeding5
Health benefits for baby:
- Balanced nutrition
- Reduced risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases1
- 36% reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)2
- 15-30% decreased risk of adolescent and adult obesity3
- Improved cognitive development4
There are additional benefits to consider as well. Breastmilk is free, sterile, and you do not have to worry about heating up or preparing a bottle in the middle of the night.
Vitamin D supplementation is recommended for babies who are exclusively breastfeeding. Human milk contains about 25 IU per liter or less and is often not enough resulting in a condition called rickets, also known as vitamin D deficiency.6 Rickets is still a rare condition in the United States but can still occur if a child does not receive enough sunlight in addition to being exclusively breastfed. If you are concerned your child is not receiving enough vitamin D, be open with your child’s pediatrician and discuss a possible need for vitamin D supplementation.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding, find a certified lactation consultant near you. Certified lactation consultants are breastfeeding specialists who can help teach mom the ins and outs of breastfeeding as well as help troubleshoot latching problems. If you are interested in breastfeeding and would like additional information on storage, traveling considerations, support, or vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great informational page.
1 Prolonged and Exclusive Breastfeeding Reduces the Risk of Infectious Diseases in Infancy. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/1/e18.full
2 Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, et al., Tufts-New England Medical Center Evidence-based Practice Center. Breastfeeding and maternal and infant health outcomes in developed countries. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2007;153(153):1–186pmid:17764214
3 Owen CG, Martin RM, Whincup PH, Smith GD, Cook DG. Effect of infant feeding on the risk of obesity across the life course: a quantitative review of published evidence. Pediatrics.2005;115(5):1367–1377pmid:15867049
4 How Breastfeeding Benefits You And Baby. https://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc?page=3
5 Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx
6 Vitamin D Supplementation. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/vitamin_d.htm