There is much information available on feeding choices, but we will begin with the choice of breast and bottle feeding and the advantages and disadvantages of both.

A hot topic indeed and very emotive! A decision that is very difficult for some parents.

While there are no doubts about the advantages of breast feeding for you and your baby, some people are not able to breastfeed, some do not perceive themselves as able to breast feed or simply do not want to.

Breast feeding

Advantages of this feeding choice

  • It is the natural milk that you have made, intended solely for your baby
  • It is “on tap” and at the right temperature, wherever you go
  • It provides natural immunity for your child
  • Breast feeding is cheaper for families
  • Your body will respond to the baby’s suckling and produce enough milk, so long as they are able to have unlimited access to the breast
  • There is no need to sterilize any apparatus, unless you choose to express milk
  • The milk changes throughout the duration of the feed, to satisfy baby’s thirst through the fore milk and baby’s nutritional needs through the hind milk
  • It helps you to bond with your baby, particularly after a difficult birth or a baby needing special care.
  • Breast feeding reduces your risk of some forms of breast cancer
  • Breast feeding helps you lose weight, as you gradually use up those fat stores of pregnancy to feed your baby
  • Breast feeding is protective against allergic conditions, such as asthma and eczema

Disadvantages

  • It can be very tiring, particularly after a caesarean birth, or other complications. Caring for a baby is very tiring though, however you feed them.
  • Nobody else can feed your baby – although you can express milk once you have established breast feeding
  • Some people feel isolated if they are uncomfortable breast feeding in public (there are excellent clothes available to help you feed discreetly – basically wear loose tops that can be lifted to feed baby)

Artificial feeding (bottle feeding)

Advantages of this feeding choice

  • Feeding the baby does not rely solely on mum (although in reality it is nearly always mum who does feed the baby)
  • Babies initially will sleep for longer between feeds, as the artificial milk takes longer to digest.
  • The night feeds can be shared between mum and dad!
  • Some people like the reassurance of seeing what the baby has drunk.

Disadvantages

  • Baby misses out on the immunity present in breast milk
  • Everything that is used for preparing the milk and feeding baby must be thoroughly sterilized
  • The artificial milk affects the gut lining making babies more susceptible to stomach bugs
  • If you are going out you must keep the milk cool (below 8ºc) until you are ready to use it and then have a facility to heat milk up to body temperature.
  • There is increased risk of breast cancer in mothers who do not breast feed
  • There is increased risk of infection in babies who are bottle fed, particularly vomiting and diarrhoea
  • The baby is more prone to allergic conditions, such as asthma and eczema

The World Health Organization recommends that babies need nothing other than breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. If in doubt, just give breast feeding a go!

Useful feeding websites and articles

For a quick and useful guide to a successful feed see our Kiwi Families article Breast Feeding Tips

Expressing your Milk gives great advice to mothers who wish to express their breast milk

The World Health Organization outlines recommendations for healthy nutrition for infants www.who.int/features/qa/21/en/index.html

This website offers further information on the advantages of breastfeeding www.harcon.co.nz/breastfeeding/advantages.htm

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Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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