What is best for our first child: Breastmilk or formula?
Kelly Goad, MD, is an OB/Gyn on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (602) 978-1500.
Question: My husband and I are expecting our first child. Can you please explain some of the benefits of breastfeeding, as opposed to formula?
Answer: Deciding whether to breastfeed or give your baby formula is a very important, as well as personal, decision for expecting parents. When it comes to deciding between the two, breastfeeding is not only the best possible source of nourishment and nutrition for babies, but also has short- and long-term health benefits for baby and mother.
A mother’s breast milk, more so than any other product, provides essential nutrients for the physical and cognitive development of a child. Additionally, mothers pass disease-fighting antibodies to their infants through their milk, providing needed protection from various illnesses and infections, such as ear infections, gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea, and respiratory infections, among others.
What’s more is breast milk, as opposed to formula, may decrease a child’s risk of obesity, asthma and allergies, diabetes, and even some childhood cancers as they mature and develop.
Mothers also reap the benefits of breastfeeding, emotionally and physically. Emotional bonding is a primary benefit of breastfeeding. Direct skin-to-skin contact from breastfeeding provides an intimacy between mother and baby that is often absent in bottle-feeding. Nursing mothers have also been found to experience less postpartum stress and anxiety, due to the presence of certain hormones.
Physically speaking, milk production can burn a significant number of calories, which is helpful for mothers seeking to reclaim their pre-pregnancy figure. Incidences of postpartum bleeding, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, Type II diabetes, and broken bones due to osteoporosis have also been found to be lower in women who breastfed their children.
If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, consult your healthcare provider or a lactation expert. There are also prenatal breastfeeding classes available that can provide the information you need to make the best decision for you and your baby.