Congratulations! You are pregnant and what an exciting time! It begins the most wonderful path of adulting that has been happening since the beginning of time. As a woman, you have the great opportunity to grow a human inside of you and bring it into this world to grow and mature into an amazing person. This is the start of many decisions you will begin making regarding your precious baby. Will he/she play sports or play music? Where will he/she go to school? But one of the first decisions YOU get to think through is will you breast feed or bottle feed?
Breastfeeding is how babies have been fed throughout most of history. Different periods of time have shown this method of feeding infants to fall in and out of favor within different cultures. In our culture, there has been a resurgence in recent years due to the information gained through research on the many benefits of breast milk for infants, and we are finding more and more mothers interested in learning of the benefits of breastfeeding. Research shows that breast milk provides protection for your baby from illnesses like colds, ear infections and pneumonias by strengthening the baby’s immunity through the mother’s milk. There is less reflux and fewer food allergies as well. Some evidence shows a slightly lower risk of developing childhood cancer, diabetes and high cholesterol. There are studies that have even shown a slightly higher level of intellect! Breastfeeding has also been cited to lower the risk of your baby’s risk of SIDS. For mothers, some studies have found that women who nurse their infants have a reduced risk of some types of cancer, including breast and ovarian cancers.
As pediatricians, we do encourage breastfeeding for all newborns, and especially encourage each new mother to at least try it. Even the early colostrum that is present in the first few days of life has immense immune and gastrointestinal benefits. There can be circumstances where breastfeeding doesn’t seem to be the best choice for a new mother. For instance, some mothers, for different reasons, do not produce enough milk. Other mothers may not have the support system to help with the initial breastfeeding regimen. In some cases, mothers may be on medicine or have a medical condition where breastfeeding is not recommended. Thankfully, there are healthy formula choices for these situations. But, in general, nursing your baby is the healthiest choice for most mothers and babies. Whatever the case, it is each new mother’s unique opportunity to make a decision that fits their budding family’s needs, balancing the health of their new baby, and their own personal situation. No one should feel guilty about making a choice that will work best for you and your family.
Breastfeeding is the most healthy first option for feeding your new baby. Although it can be challenging, we encourage you, if it fits for your budding family’s needs, to give it a try. There are lots of food choices out there in the world, but consider giving your baby as his/her first food, the world’s healthiest fast food!