Breastfeeding is touted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Society as the best feeding option for babies, and a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's showed that 77 percent of American babies start life being breastfed. But what's popular isn't right for everyone. Deciding whether to breastfeed is a personal choice, although it's smart to listen to other voices when making your decision.
Your infant won't miss out on critical vitamins if you opt to feed him exclusively by formula. In fact, says KidsHealth, formula contains some nutrients that breast milk lacks. It's also convenient. Running errands without your baby doesn't require you to pump breast milk in advance or make a stop to pump and dump. You're free to take necessary medications and enjoy the occasional cocktail without worrying about what you're passing along to your baby, and your partner or caregiver can feed and therefore bond with the baby when you're not available. And while breastfeeding moms sometimes struggle to produce enough milk to satisfy their babies, you'll never have that problem with an all-formula diet.
The Cons of Formula
Before committing to a formula-only diet for your baby, consider the drawbacks of this option. The cost is significant. One year worth of basic formula can cost about $1,500, says KidsHealth, and some brands cost even more. Bottles must be carefully prepared, which means 3 a.m. feedings require trips to the kitchen -- unlike a low-fuss breastfeeding session. Breast milk contains antibodies that formula doesn't, and formula-fed babies have elevated risks of developing asthma, obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life, says WomensHealth.gov. Breastfeeding lowers your risk of certain diseases too. And while feeding your baby from a bottle is still a bonding experience, not breastfeeding means missing out on some precious skin-to-skin contact.
Getting Comfortable With Your Decision
Every woman has her own reasons for not breastfeeding. You may have had a painful breastfeeding experience with a previous child, or you may fear that a busy work schedule will make breastfeeding inconvenient. Some moms may simply feel too modest to breastfeed in public when necessary or may have other reasons to prefer formula feeding. One 2013 study of 532 first-time moms found that 92 percent of them had breastfeeding concerns within three days of giving birth. Failure to latch, pain and insufficient milk production were common issues in moms studied, according to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and contributed to many moms giving up on breastfeeding later on. So if you choose to feed with formula, you won't be the only mom at playgroup who's not breastfeeding.
Whether you've tried breastfeeding and want to quit or just don't want to try, consult your doctor. WomensHealth.gov suggests working with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or breastfeeding educator if you want to breastfeed but need help. If you're confident you don't want to breastfeed, talk about your concerns with your partner. Formula feeding may require you to juggle your monthly budget. And if you feel guilt over feeding your baby from a bottle, speaking to a counselor or support group for new moms can help you see that your baby is well taken care of no matter how he's fed.