There has been a choice between breast milk and formula since canned milk was invented and made just for babies. The formula was pretty simple, measure the powder according to the instructions, mix with water in a bottle and feed.
Formula has its benefits and mothers who choose it do so for different reasons. However, with the recent shortage of infant formula, newly pregnant mothers, whether it is their first or third child, might carefully weigh their feeding choices for their baby.
Some who thought breastfeeding wouldn’t be an option may now choose it exclusively, and there are many benefits for their child.
According to the July report of Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP, “it recommends exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months of life before introducing nutritious complementary foods, while encouraging social and systemic changes to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.
“Research has shown that breastfeeding is linked to lower rates of lower respiratory tract infections, severe diarrhea, ear infections and obesity. Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome, as well as other protective effects,” the AAP report states. “There are continued benefits to breastfeeding beyond 1 year, and up to 2 years, especially in the mother. Long-term breastfeeding is associated with protections against diabetes, high blood pressure and breast and ovarian cancers.
Amy Berry, Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Consultant and OB Unit Manager at Mercy Health agrees and adds that breast milk is perfectly designed for an infant.
“It’s a commitment,” says Berry, helping mothers realize their vision for feeding their newborns and helping them get the support they need to make it happen.
There are ways parents can learn to breastfeed before and after their baby is born.
Berry says to reach out to prenatal classes, which now have virtual options, and many are in hospitals. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) also provides services to low-income pregnant, lactating and non-lactating women and families.
However, once moms are in the hospital and want to breastfeed, it’s best not to get discouraged if things don’t go as planned.
“I tell moms not to worry if babies don’t latch on,” Berry says. “It’s not uncommon that they don’t get it right away.”
Nurses and lactation consultants help mothers make the transition – milk supply and latch support.
“What I usually tell moms is to watch their babies come out and how often they have wet or dirty diapers,” Berry says. “Breast milk is not measured by quantity, but they will start to see how much the baby is growing and gaining.”
If parents have other concerns, they can contact their pediatrician between their regular infant visits. Berry recommends finding a breastfeeding support group or other mothers to lean on to manage feeding. Most hospitals also have outpatient services.
If you’re having trouble when you get home, it’s easy to reach for that formula bottle,” says Berry. “Try to (plan) from the start, make sure you have (the right support) in place to be successful. Over time it becomes less work, more efficient and less difficult. It gets you through those first few weeks and getting those supports.
For parents returning to work, being prepared and taking care of yourself will increase the chances of success in continuing to breastfeed.
“You can do a combination,” Berry says, adding that parents can find ways to breastfeed, pump or supplement with formula, whatever works for them and is tolerable. “For a lot of moms, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”