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Dilemma: To Bottle Feed or Breastfeed

By Michelle Higgins

Expecting a baby? You must be in a state of bliss, yet confounded by multiple choices. One of the toughest decisions you will have to make: Bottle feeding or Breastfeeding? Despite all the information available on the pros and cons, the final decision is yours. What is right for someone else might not be right for you.

Here is some help to make your decision.

The strong case for breast feeding

Most pediatricians advocate breast milk as the perfect food for a baby and indeed it is all that she needs for the first six months. It is easy to digest. It contains unique disease fighting antibodies, an exclusive blend of nutrients, hormones and enzymes that promote growth and development.

Breast milk stays at the right temperature, is available at all times and is safe and sterile too. Breastfeeding offers protection against several allergies and diseases. There is more physical contact with your baby while you breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is beneficial for the mother as well. It helps shrink your uterus to its normal size, burns calories and helps you lose weight, and is known to reduce your risk of breast, uterus and ovarian cancer. Exclusive breastfeeding until six months is an effective method of contraception too.

And yes, breast milk is nature's first choice for your baby.

Breast feeding: The flip side

Breastfeeding requires a great deal of patience and perseverance not to mention a great deal of time. If you want to go back to work, breastfeeding might not be practical.

A breastfeeding mother has to avoid alcohol, smoking and limit caffeine consumption. She also has to watch what she eats until she is breastfeeding.

You cannot go on a diet while you are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding also limits the variety of clothes you can wear. This can be a little disappointing especially if you were waiting to shed those pregnancy pounds and get back into those bikinis and tube tops.

Nursing is not recommended for mothers suffering from certain medical conditions or on particular medications.

In favor of Bottle feeding

Bottle feeding or formula feeding can be a substitute for breastfeeding, especially for mothers who cannot breast feed due to any reason.

Commercially available infant formulas are manufactured under sterile conditions and attempt to reproduce human milk with complex ingredients.

Bottle feeding provides a lot of convenience and flexibility. Both partners (dad doesn't feel left out) and caregivers can feed baby, giving mom her much needed time outs.

Mothers don't have to worry about what they eat or drink if they are not breastfeeding their baby.

Bottle feeding Cons

Bottles and nipples need to be washed and sterilized meticulously during the initial few months since they can transmit germs to baby. The feeds have to be maintained at the right temperature. Preparing formula for a howling baby thrice in the middle of the night can be demanding.

Besides, formula-fed babies do not obtain the natural protection that breast milk bestows.

Bottle fed infants have more gas, more tooth decay and more digestion problems and run a greater risk of being obese later in life.

Exclusive formula feeding can be expensive too.

Will a combo work for me?

If you earnestly wish to breast feed but cannot commit enough time for it, there is no need feel guilty. Where there is a will there is a way.

You can take nursing breaks from work if feasible. Pumping breast milk and storing it for your baby is another option. This "breast in a bottle" method provides the best of both worlds.

Alternatively, you can opt for combination feeding, where you nurse your baby when you are with him and he is formula fed otherwise.

Whatever the method you opt for, bottle feeding or breastfeeding, feeding your baby is not just about providing nutrition. It is an opportunity for you and baby to nurture a physical and emotional bond. Let him enjoy your warm cuddle as you feed him and watch him bask in the contentment of a full tummy.

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