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To Breastfeed or not to Breastfeed

One difficult decision you may face during your pregnancy is deciding whether or not to breastfeed your newborn baby. Breastfeeding is currently in vogue for a variety of good reasons which we will shortly discuss. However, the decision to breastfeed or not remains a personal choice that each mother must make. You should not feel pressured into choosing one way or the other just to please the people around you.

Keep the following points in mind while making your decision:

Advantages of breastfeeding include:

  • Breast milk is the most complete source of naturally balanced nutrition available for your baby. The only food an infant needs during the first six months of life is breast milk.
  • Breast milk contains antibodies that protect your baby from illness. Breastfed babies tend to have fewer allergies than bottle-fed babies.
  • Breast milk is less expensive and easier for babies to digest than formula.
  • Breastfeeding can be both relaxing and convenient. There are no bottles to wash, sterilize, or prepare.
  • Breastfeeding can help your uterus return to normal size more quickly after delivery because of the release of the hormone oxytocin.
  • Breastfeeding can also help you lose weight.

Disadvantages of breastfeeding include:

  • Women who breastfeed must be available to feed their babies 6 to 8 times each day. Although women may choose to pump and store their breast milk so as to make it possible for other people to actually feed their baby, women typically have to continue breastfeeding in person, in order to maintain an adequate supply of milk for their baby. It is much easier for others to share the responsibility of caring for a baby when bottle feeding methods are used.
  • Because breast milk is easier to digest, breastfed babies tend to require more feedings. Bottle-fed babies tend to remain fuller for longer periods, and therefore can go longer between feedings.
  • Bottle feeding makes it easier for you to see how much your baby is eating. When breastfeeding, a woman has to guess how much milk her baby is getting.
  • The foods you eat and the medications you take while breastfeeding can enter your baby's system through your milk. Therefore, women often have to avoid certain foods, drinks and medications that might have a negative effect on the baby throughout the entire period of breastfeeding. If you choose to bottle feed, you do not have to worry about these restrictions.
  • Breastfeeding can lead to sore nipples and leaky breasts, which in turn can affect your sex life. This is not a problem for women who bottle feed.

Keep this in mind when deciding how to feed your baby: Your breasts will only continue producing milk if you allow your baby to nurse on them. They will cease to produce milk if nursing ceases. For this reason, it is easier for you to start out breastfeeding and later switch to bottle feeding if you decide it isn't for you than vice versa. Most hospitals have lactation (breastfeeding) consultants who can help you to learn about breastfeeding and get used to this new experience during the first few days with your new baby. Information about breastfeeding is available online at http://www.lalecheleague.org/.

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