Breastfeeding vs Formula: A Potentially Dangerous Decision

As a mom-to-be I hear a lot of opinions about what I should do and what others do. I'm pretty discouraged by what I hear from people my age and their approach to child birth and nursing -- here's why.

In America we have an incredibly high rate for inducing, drugs during labor (even before going in to active labor, it seems), episiotomy, starting immunizations immediately and then not truly encouraging women to breast feed.

Why?
Women's bodies are equipped to create a life, nourish it while it grows in the womb, give birth naturally and nourish our babies with our milk as he or she grows. Honestly and truly - why do women sell themselves short of a completely normal, natural experience by drugging themselves and their babies or having it cut out of their stomachs? Nonetheless, the focus of this post is primarily about breastfeeding vs formula feeding because SO many people I know opt for the unnatural route.

Here are the routes people take when choosing.

  • I know a few who have nursed up to 14+ months. (Yay to those moms!!) 
  • Few do breast feeding for more than one year.
  • Even fewer do breast feeding exclusively.
  • When their wee ones are still only months old, someone convinces them that their bodies failed at milk production and they must use formula.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Medical Association (AMA) recommend that the breast is better but it seems they shift here and there about how many months moms should breastfeed. The AAP says it's cool to breast feed up to 6 months old. That's way too young, in my opinion. 

According to KidsHealth.org, breastfeeding has some miraculous effects on mom and baby that are not found with the unnatural (formula) route.

Benefits include:

  • Infection fighting antibodies are passed from the mother's milk to baby. These infection fighting antibodies help fight against 
    • ear infections
    • diarrhea  
    • respiratory infections
    • meningitis 
  • It also decreases the growth of organisms like (bad) bacteria and viruses. 
  • Premature babies are also protected against 
    • allergies
    • asthma
    • diabetes
    • obesity
    • sudden infant death syndrom (SIDS)
Overall, KidsHealth.org reports that breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. Breast milk (not cow's milk or any alternatives) is referred to as the "perfect food" for human babies because it is perfect for your wee one's digestive system. It reduces incidences of diarrhea or constipation, it contains TONS of essential vitamins. 

As if that all wasn't reason enough to breast feed (or continue pumping when mom returns to work) here are some perks for mom. 

Mom's benefits include:
  • Breastfeeding is free. It doesn't cost a dime. You don't have to heat up anything or carry anything extra. You carry your baby's food and it's always the perfect level of nutrition and is the healthiest option for your baby. 
  • It burns calories
  • Shrinks the uterus so that means you return to your pre-pregger body faster and drop the baby weight quicker
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risks of
    • Breast cancer
    • High Blood Pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • may also decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer
    • Women who breastfed for at least  7-12 months after giving birth have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (according to the National Institute of Health, Women's Initiative) 
Breastfeeding isn't just about convenience now. It has some serious long-term effects that are crucial to the little human you create in our world. Breastfed babies are smarter than formula-fed. Studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed have slightly higher IQs than formula-fed babies. 


I have recently learned that there are major discrepancies among racial lines & education levels in America regarding breast feeding.

RACIAL DIFFERENCES

African American women have the lowest rates of breast feeding. 
Of 11,476 women, 54.4% breastfed at initiation, after 6 months the number dropped to 26.6% and after 12 months the number dropped further to 11.7%

Asian women have the highest breastfeeding rates from initiation 80.9% to 12 months at 29.7%. 

Hispanic women trail shortly behind Asians at 80.4% at initiation and 24% after 12 months. 

EDUCATION LEVEL
Interestingly enough, education contributes to a women's decision to breastfeed. I didn't even know this! 

Less than a GED or high school degree were the least likely to breastfeed -- at around only 65-66% breastfeeding at initiation and dropping to 19% after 12 months.

College graduate moms averaged at 85.4% at initiation and 28.6% stuck with it by 12 months. 

AGE
Who knew age was another contributing factor. 

Young moms (under 20 yrs old) were the least likely to breast feed. Only 53% at initiation and 8.1% by 12 months. (such sad numbers!!) 

Moms over 30 were the most likely to breastfeed. At initiation it was 77.5% and down to 24.4% by 12 months.

Facts and figures provided by the CDC during a 2003-2006 study. 

HELPFUL WEBSITES & GROUPS

Here are some great organizations and websites that promote breastfeeding. Some of these even offer FREE assistance. 

La Leche League International: www.lli.org
Breastfeeding.com:  www.breastfeeding.com
Kelly Mom: www.kellymom.com
LLL Alliance for Breastfeeding Education: www.llleus.org
Healthy Children's Center for Breastfeeding: www.healthychildren.cc



Based on the statistics, it's no wonder that new moms are less likely to breastfeed. Not only are a lot of moms encouraged to buy into a formula-based program that is actually expensive and takes a toll on the health of your baby but with such short maternity leave programs or jobs that don't offer any kind of leave for moms, yes, formula seems easier. But pumping is an option!! Even if your baby is bottle fed that doesn't mean you have to put formula in the bottle. Pump, pump, pump. 

Pumping and storing guidelines for mom & baby -- (according to babycenter.com)
  • Expressed breast milk can sit at room temperature (ya know, just on the counter, in your travel baby bag, etc) for 6 to 8 hours. That is only at room temperature though. So keep it away from warm objects and out of baking in direct sunlight. 
  • Expressed breast milk lasts 2 weeks in a refrigerator (put in in one of your fridge drawers though to keep it at a consistent temperature) 
  • Expressed breast milk lasts up to 3 - 6 months in a freezer.
  • And ... expressed breast milk lasts up to 6-12 months in a chest or upright deep freezer.
So, pump and pump and pump and store. All you have to do is gently warm the milk to make it comfortable for the baby. How fantastic is that! So even if your baby goes to daycare, pack in breast milk bottles for the fridge or you have that nice 6-8 hr window if it stays at room temperature. 


I can attest to the fact that being pregnant means getting bombarded by opinions and some are way less helpful than others. I can only suggest looking into the benefits of breast milk for your baby. If you have trouble with the baby latching on or have sore nipples, etc., there is help out there and a lot of the help is free. Definitely check out your local La Leche because they can refer to you local people who can assist if they can't. 

Unless there is a medical reason you cannot breastfeed, definitely consider the benefits. It's not just for you and your wallet -- it's most importantly what is best for your baby.


Good luck to all the moms-to-be and nursing moms!!! 



 



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