Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding

Understanding the Breastfeeding Benefits for You and Your Baby

  

A woman breastfeeding her baby.There are countless benefits to breastfeeding, making it a highly economical, convenient, healthy, and eco-friendly. Learn why you should be breastfeeding your baby versus bottle feeding. 

 

Breastfeeding benefits for babies

Many health organizations recommend that you feed your baby exclusively breast milk for the first 6 months of life and that you supplement other dietary options for a full year. Here’s why:

  • Breast milk provides the most nutritious food for newborns and infants and contains antibodies that help protect against childhood illnesses and chronic disease.[1]
  • Breastfeeding can reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.[2]
  • Infants who are breastfed have lower risk of gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infections, asthma, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sudden infant death syndrome and childhood leukemia.[3]
  • Many infants will experience allergies to cow’s milk, making it an inconvenient option.[4]
  • Breastfed babies also have proper jaw and teeth alignment.[5]
  • Some studies indicate that breastfed babies have slightly higher IQs than those who are bottle fed.[6]
  • Breast milk is a dynamic fluid that changes throughout your baby’s life, adapting to his or her dietary needs as they grow and change.[7]
  • Breastfeeding ensures a steady supply of nutrition for babies during times of emergencies and natural disasters.[8]

 

Breastfeeding benefits for mothers

Don’t forget that breastfeeding is a very positive act for mothers as well, as it benefits their health, mood, and pocketbooks.

  • Breastfeeding is more convenient than using formula. You don’t have to pack along formula and bottles and there’s no clean-up required after each session.
  • Choosing to breastfeed will save your family money. In fact, it can save you between $1,160 and $3,915 per year compared to formula.[9]
  • Breastfeeding can induce a period of no menstruation which is a low-cost form of birth control.
  • Moms who breastfeed form a strong bond with their babies through skin to skin contact.
  • Breastfeeding mothers burn more calories which helps to reduce pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
  • Mothers who breastfeed are healthier in that they have decreased risks of postpartum depression, type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and bone density problems.[10]
  • Breastfeeding reduces your health care costs and minimizes the burden on the public health system.
  • Breastfeeding mothers are healthier, miss less work, and contribute more to society.[11]

 

Breastfeeding is good for the environment

Breastfeeding is also much more environmentally-friendly than formula feeding for many reasons:

  • The waste created by using baby formula can be big when you consider formula tins, cans, lids, and so forth.
  • Breast milk is created locally, whereas formula is often made in offshore countries and then shipped to your home. This requires significant amounts of fossil fuels and results in the emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Dairy farms that produce milk for formula contribute to climate change, too. Cows emit methane gas, a greenhouse gas that’s 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere.[12]

 

Downsides to breastfeeding

Despite the vast benefits to breastfeeding your baby, there are some risks given the number and type of pollutants in the environment and the possibility of those being passed along to your baby through your breast milk. You’ll want to consider the following breast milk toxins:

  • In utero exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can result in lower birth weights, smaller head circumferences, below-average muscle tone and reflexes, lower developmental scores, and short-term memory deficits. PCBs have been shown to be in high concentrations in breast milk.[13]
  • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other environmental pollutants have been found evident in breast milk in a wide percentage of the population, with many of these being passed along to the baby.[14]
  • Manufacturing polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, creates dioxins which are highly toxic and have been shown to be in breast milk and really throughout the food chain.[15]

 

The negatives of bottle formula feeding

Breastfeeding vs bottle feeding clearly has some amazing benefits but there are also some health concerns you should consider when weighing your baby feeding options.

  • Infant formula does not contain the same immunity benefits of breast milk, though it will provide adequate nutrition for your baby.[16]
  • Buying formula, bottles, nipples, and using energy to heat it all up is a costly affair.
  • Latex rubber nipples can cause allergic reactions.
  • Plastic baby bottles may be lined with bisphenol A (BPA) which is a hormone disruptor. BPA may also be present in the lining of formula cans.[17]
  • If your water is not filtered, it may pose problems when mixed with your formula.
  • If you are considering baby formula - check out our natural baby formula article





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References

1 10 Facts on Breastfeeding. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/facts/en/index1.html

2 Recommendations on the Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from American Medical Association: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/public-health/promoting-healthy-lifestyles/obesity/childhood-obesity/assessment-prevention-treatment.shtml

3 American Dietetic Association Releases Updated Position Paper Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding. (2009, November 1). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from American Dietetic Association: http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=10715

4 Benefits of Breastfeeding. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from Dr. Greene: http://www.drgreene.com/qa/benefits-breastfeeding?pagination=show

5, 10 American Dietetic Association Releases Updated Position Paper Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding. (2009, November 1). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from American Dietetic Association: http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=10715

6 Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from KidsHealth: http://kidshealth.org/parent/food/infants/breast_bottle_feeding.html#

7, 9, 11 Benefits of Breastfeeding. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from WomensHealth.gov: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/benefits/

8 Resources for Breastfeeding During Emergencies. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from La Leche League: http://www.llli.org/emergency.html

12 Mother Nature Loves Breastmilk. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from Breastfeeding.com: http://www.breastfeeding.com/reading_room/mother_nature.html

13 Breast-feeding in a polluted world: uncertain risks, clear benefits. (1993, July 1). Retrieved May 17, 1020, from PubMed Central - Ontario Workers' Compensation Institute: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1485262/?page=1

14 Chemicals in Mother's Milk. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/envpoll.asp

15 Toxins in breastmilk. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from Baby Centre: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/baby/breastfeeding/problemsandsolutions/toxinsinbreastmilk/?_requestid=3288531#4

16 Breast-feeding vs. formula: What's right for your baby? (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from MayoClinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-feeding/FL00133/NSECTIONGROUP=2

17 Tell Your Formula Company to Remove BPA. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2010, from Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/node/25724

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