Whether a mother chooses to breastfeed or formula feed her child, both avenues of feeding provide the appropriate amount of nutrients, fats, and calories babies need for the first six months of their lives. There are benefits to each type of feeding, and mothers are encouraged to make the decision that best suits their lifestyle and child.
Breastfeeding is an inexpensive way to give a baby rich nutrients while also serving as an opportunity for bonding between mother and child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org/breastfeeding/) recommends breastfeeding newborns for at least six months. Breastfeeding mothers may find it easier to lose pregnancy weight, and breastfeeding can contribute to reducing your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Within the first hour after birth, if possible, allow the baby to latch, and breastfeeding will be easier for both mother and child. If you have chosen to breastfeed, it is important for you to voice your decision clearly to the hospital staff so they do not give the newborn formula or a pacifier.
Oftentimes mothers don’t feel supported by family or work when faced with the choice to breastfeed. Don’t give up! Breast pumps are wonderful tools that allow you to breastfeed and spend time working or in school. Good breast pumps can be expensive to purchase, but low-income women can receive grants for free or low-cost pump rental from a hospital, lactation center, or pharmacy. Contact your state health department or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office. Many times, a woman’s insurance will offer a breast pump. Look on sites such as Ebay or Swap Mamas (www.swapmamas.com), and consider local parents’ groups to borrow or purchase a used breast pump. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that only FDA-cleared, hospital-grade pumps, sterilized between uses, should be used by more than one person.
If you feel that you are being discriminated against at work or school while trying to breastfeed, learn your rights from organizations such as First Shift Justice Project (http://www.firstshift.org) or Family Values At Work (http://familyvaluesatwork.org/#sthash.J7DRCBTM.dpbs). Organizations like these will enable you to learn your rights as a working and breastfeeding mother and provide you with the information necessary to advocate on your behalf. You and your child come first—learn your rights!
Infant formula can be a safe and practical alternative to breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends iron-fortified infant formula if you are unable to breastfeed, if your baby is weaned before 12 months, or if your baby needs supplemental milk. Formula feeding is a great alternative for adoptive families, and it is easy for parents who are always on the go.
Infant formula may be available for free at pregnancy care centers or food pantries. Many formula manufacturers’ websites offer coupons. Register at these sites, and formula coupons and samples will be sent directly to you in the mail. WIC (Women, Infant and Children) also can help with the cost of formula in approved grocery stores. Buy formula in bulk at warehouse stores or generic brands at discount stores. Be sure to do a little research to ensure the formula is similar to name brands, because many store brands are modeled after name brands and provide comparable nutrition for half the cost. Always prepare baby formula according to the directions. Never try to stretch your budget by adding too much water to baby formula. This can cause serious health problems for your baby.
Parenting is a full-time job, and often it seems that propping a bottle during feeding time is efficient and good for multi-tasking. Bottle propping is giving a baby a bottle by leaning the bottle against a support, such as a pillow, rather than holding the baby and the bottle. However, bottle propping is discouraged because it allows less interaction between parent and child. Feeding time is an excellent time for a parent to bond with their child, and bottle propping eliminates the warm and loving interaction that occurs when a parent holds their child for feeding. Bottle propping can cause ear infections if liquid enters the Eustachian tube while the baby is lying flat. Bacteria can enter the tubes and cause an ear infection, which can impact hearing and speaking. Bottle propping also makes it easier for the baby to choke or aspirate and can cause tooth decay.
You might be asking, “Then how should I feed my baby?” The best way to feed an infant is to hold him or her in a semi-upright position and hold the bottle at all times. Use this time to interact with your baby, look in their eyes, rub their skin, and talk or sing to them. This will be a relaxing and enjoyable time for your little one, and for you, too!
Pick The Method Best for You and Your Child
Whether you choose to breastfeed your newborn or formula feed, choose the method that is the healthiest and safest option for both you and your baby. A great online tool to follow while feeding your little one in these first months after birth is the age-by-age infant feeding guide found on Babycenter.com (link provided under “resources”). Once you’ve found the feeding method best for your child, enjoy this special and unique time of bonding!
Original article published in the 2009/10 issue of The American Feminist, “Raising Kids on a Shoestring” by Feminists for Life of America. Revised by Lindsey Frechau.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.aap.org/breastfeeding/
Baby Center feeding guide, http://www.babycenter.com/0_age-by-age-guide-to-feeding-your-baby_1400680.bc
Family Values At Work, http://familyvaluesatwork.org/#sthash.J7DRCBTM.dpbs
First Shift Justice Project, http://www.firstshift.org
Swap Mamas, http://www.swapmamas.com
Organizations that engage in policy advocacy regarding work and family issues
9 To 5, http://9to5.org/
A Better Balance, http://www.abetterbalance.org/web/
Center for Work Life Law at UC Hastings College of the Law, http://worklifelaw.org/
Equal Rights Advocates, http://www.equalrights.org/
Moms Rising, http://www.momsrising.org/
National Partnership for Women & Families, http://www.nationalpartnership.org/
What You Can Do
- If you have gently used breastfeeding pumps you are no longer using, consider donating them to online swap sites or parenting groups in your area. You can also donate diapers, baby bottles, and other baby gear.
- Research local non-profits and family-oriented organizations to see if there are breastfeeding resources and consultations. Many hospitals or family centers will provide free breastfeeding consultations so you can feel like you are feeding your baby safely and properly.
- If you know a mother who has chosen the best infant feeding method for her child- breastfeeding or formula feeding- support her in her decision. While this topic has received hot debate in recent years, as a bystander, friend, or family member, it is not your job to give a new mother your opinion or criticism. Provide her with support and any help she may need to ensure her child is well fed.