"The more that you read,
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The more that you learn,
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Dr. Seuss,  I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Are You Mom Enough: Breastfeeding versus Formula Feeding

Being a mother is one of the noblest roles in the world. However, it can also be exhausting and terrifying. Moms always want the best for their kids. The moment a child is born, a very important decision has to be made: does she breastfeed or does she go for formula milk?

It is a difficult yet necessary decision to make for all mothers. This decision will determine the method of care they will give to their child for the next few months or years. There is also the heavier responsibility of being able to provide the best nutrition for the child’s health and future.

So, Is Breast Best? The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend breastfeeding infants exclusively for the first six months and for two more years after and there is a good reason for that.

Many studies have confirmed the benefits of breastfeeding for child nourishment and development.

In terms of nutrients, breast milk has been considered liquid gold because it contains elements that boost the immune system, protect the child from asthma, allergies, and most common childhood infections. These elements can only be produced through a mother’s lactation.

The right balance of nutrients in breastmilk means most babies tend to digest breast milk easier than formula. It also helps prevent obesity as the child gets older.

Several studies have shown a connection between breastfeeding for more than six months and having a higher IQ once the child reaches the ages of three to seven years old.

Research done by Harvard was able to find that children who were breastfed longer than six months had better-developed language skills by the age of three and had higher IQ scores by the time they reach seven years old. An increase of four IQ points was found with children who were breastfed for their first year of life. These results were taken after considering other factors such as the mother’s intelligence and the child’s environment that may affect the child’s intelligence.

75% of brain development occurs in the initial two years of a child’s life. Breast milk is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain development. This may be the reason why studies have shown that children who were breastfed for an extended period of time had a higher IQ, better mathematical ability, and working memory compared to those who shifted to formula milk earlier.

Challenges Faced When Breastfeeding

Although the benefits of breastfeeding is hard to argue with, some mothers have a harder time following through with it. There are mothers who need to go to work soon after they give birth. Some moms also have medical conditions that require them to take medicine that may be transferred through breast milk and becomes harmful to the child.

There are also first time mothers who are overwhelmed and are not able to produce enough breast milk for their children. Others have uncomfortable conditions like sore or inverted nipples. Postpartum depression is also an issue that some moms tend to go through after giving birth.

Throughout all these hardships, there are some ways moms can manage the problems behind providing enough breast milk for their children.

If you are unable to produce enough breast milk for your baby, there is such a thing as a human milk bank. They can provide pasteurized breast milk from donating mothers. There are organizations that can help you find accredited milk banks in your area.

Having to go back to work can be stressful if you are trying to provide enough breast milk for your baby. Devices such as breast pumps can help you stock up on milk even when you are away from home. You can also collect more milk faster by using a double electric breast pump. To make sure you continue being able to produce a continuous flow of milk, pump as often as you would feed the baby from the breast.

Directly feeding from the breast can be uncomfortable for some mothers. It is okay to feed your baby breast milk from a feeding bottle. Ask guidance and support from friends, family members, and healthcare professionals who can give you proper advice and have gone through similar experiences with breastfeeding and motherhood.

Learn about breastfeeding through books and other sources of information. This will boost your confidence and help lessen your stress when it comes to breastfeeding.

Keep a calm and relaxed environment for you and your baby.

Eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids and rest as much as you can. To be able to take care of your baby, you have to somehow take care of yourself too.

Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Every mother goes through a difficulty especially those who are first time moms. You only want the best for your child and this can be a lot of pressure for you. Always remember to take some time for yourself and ask your partner or friends and family for help if you need it.

Getting the Formula

Not all mothers are able to follow the recommendation for breastfeeding for health and personal reasons. For some, they have no other option but to go for formula. But is formula milk evil?

Infant formula milk can support babies with their typical dietary needs when properly prepared. There  is also specially formulated infants’ milk for babies that have more specific nutritional requirements.

More than anything, your baby’s needs for proper nutrition and hydration come first. Formula milk contains vitamins and nutrients needed for your baby’s growth and development.

Another benefit of going with formula is that it allows your partner to participate more in the wonderful process of feeding which is found to create bonds between the baby and the feeder.

Formula milk is also a good tool to support breastfeeding by helping get a child to better health while a mother is trying to recuperate or while a mother tries to improve on her milk production.

Is Formula Evil?

A stigma against women who don’t breastfeed has been going around to make them feel guilty about it. The thinking that mothers who prefer formula over breast milk are short changing their children’s health and future is something that has become an unfortunate mindset.

This needs to stop. A woman’s reasons for choosing formula for her child should not be a concern for anybody else but her. The needs of her child will always be priority. 

There are babies who lose dangerous amounts of weight because of the imposition of breast milk for infants and newborns. The stigma around formula only causes more danger to children who have no other choice for their nutrition.

Mothers have not been able to fully enjoy motherhood because on top of everything else they have to do for their family, they are put through unfair judgements from people who do not understand the main reasons for their decision.

For mothers who opt for formula milk, there is nothing to be ashamed of as long as you are able to provide for your infant’s needs --breastfed or not. Opting for formula milk is not an indicative of bad parenting now or in your child’s future. This does not say that you are less committed to being a good parent to your child. In fact, it may even be the best decision you make for your baby.

Final Thoughts

A mother’s focus should be in nourishing and nurturing her child. It is best not to entertain the negative emotions that come from those who cannot understand your decisions. Never hesitate to ask for support from loved ones and the guidance of healthcare experts when you need it. All mothers need the encouragement and understanding of everyone to help get them through the beautiful journey of motherhood.

What others can do to help mothers provide the best nurturing for their children would be to support having more paid parental leaves in the office, educate and inform more people about proper child nutrition, and build safe communities that offer guidance and support for mothers in need.