Formula easier?

Myth: Breastfeeding is more time-consuming than formula feeding. Besides, doesn’t formula give moms a break so they are not so tied down? And with formula you know exactly how much baby is getting. Seems like formula-feeding is easier overall so isn’t formula feeding better in the long run?

Fact: Breastfeeding takes much less time than artificial feeding. And is much easier than formula and dealing with bottles.

At first glance, bottle-feeding might seem easier, but when you consider all the variables, breastfeeding is MUCH easier and better all around. A breastfed baby is easy to carry with you — without all the bottles, nipples, formula. Just grab him and go! When baby is hungry, it’s so easy to just lift your top up a little, and give him the breast. “Breastfeeding: anytime, anywhere” is a slogan that is nice to keep in mind.

But when a formula-feeding baby is hungry, instead of turning your attention quickly and easily TO the baby to breastfeed, the person feeding the formula to the baby has to turn their attention AWAY from the baby to prepare the formula.

Even if it is the ready-to-feed formula (which is the most expensive type), someone still has to find feeding supplies, wash them if necessary, open a can, pour it into the bottle, warm the formula — all while trying to console a baby who is becoming unhappier by the minute. By the time the feeding starts, the baby might very well be frantically crying and difficult to console. And being upset is not good for digestion.

Remember, formula feeding also has hidden time-consuming elements. Someone has to shop for the formula and feeding paraphernalia and wash them. Formula-fed babies have been proven to get sick much more often than breastfed babies, so time needs to be taken to bring baby to the doctor, not to mention the time parents have to take off from work to care for a sick baby. And the time spent worrying if he will be okay.

Even if baby doesn’t become acutely ill (although the incidence of ear and respiratory infections and allergies is significantly greater for artificially-fed babies) many babies have digestive trouble from cow or soy based formulas. So you spend more time trying to comfort an unhappy baby. Breastmilk, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to the baby, and in fact, changes composition throughout each feeding, and self-adjusts to meet babies’ individual requirements. Plus, it contains ingredients that actively fight off viruses that your and/or baby might have been exposed to.

Breastmilk, in fact, self-regulates according to the baby’s nutritional and hydration requirements so measuring is not needed. If you are concerned about quantity, the fact is that if you breastfeed whenever baby wants it, and not experiencing any latching or other challenges, and you allow the baby to change sides whenever s/he wants, then you will know baby is getting everything they need in terms of calories and quality! Another way to know is to notice if baby has plenty of poopy and wet diapers. If it comes out, it HAD to go in! And of course, regular check-ups with the clinic should reassure you that all is well.

Breastfeeding is nature’s way of ensuring the baby gets not only food, but mother’s presence. The hormone oxytocin, which is released during let-downs while breastfeeding, has been shown to foster maternal feelings and behaviour. But bottle-feeding moms do not have that release of oxytocin during bottle-feeding, that makes them have the urge to hold and caress the baby. It is very easy to put the baby down to hold his own bottle.

At the least, bottle-feeding keeps the mom and baby from cuddling because the bottle is in the way, and both mother and baby tend to focus mostly on the bottle itself. Is is propped at the correct angle? Is baby swallowing air? Is anything blocking the nipple opening? Is the bottle nipple clean? What do you do when the bottle gets dropped?

So which seems nicer? Baby holding a bottle or holding onto and being held by someone who loves him — his mom!

As primates, we are a “continuous contact” species, rather than “intermittent contact”, like cats. Breastmilk is digested quickly, and primates normally carry their young and breastfeed frequently (on baby’s cue). The more advanced the species, the longer it takes to go from birth to maturation, and breastfeeding probably evolved as a mechanism to ensure that the baby has MOM’S presence in particular. Just as pregnancy is only something moms can do, breastfeeding is also only something moms can do.

Nature didn’t make a mistake by leaving dad out of the feeding scenario. We are designed with unique things to offer a baby and dad is no more of a substitute mom than mom can be a substitute dad. We have important and DIFFERENT roles to play in the development of a baby. Dad’s role is to support and protect mom in HER role, and she can let him know how he can help. In this way, he can feel valued as part of what he offers the family in his own way.

As far as being easier for mom than formula or even letting others feed the baby, breastfeeding is a wonderful way for mom to relax too and take a break while baby nurses. In fact, the hormone “prolactin” that is also released during breastfeeding feels relaxing, and moms who are breastfeeding are more likely to take the nap they need, instead of being tempted to do too much while baby has a bottle, and running out of energy that would best be directed towards the baby.

Many moms find that breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful aspects of mothering — in fact, the best reward of parenting. So why take that away from her?

To help give mom a “break” it’s great to do things that support breastfeeding. There are many ways family members and friends can do that: take care of housework and other tasks, prepare mom nourishing food, bring her water and pillows while she is breastfeeding. These are great ways to help give mom a break from parenting responsibilities and leave her to have the fun of enjoying her baby.

But think about the idea of needing a “break”. Somehow breastfeeding is blamed as being the factor that keeps mom away from what she would like to do. Some people believe moms need to get away from the baby. But many moms find that if someone else takes the baby away and formula feeds him while she goes somewhere else, then she is not able to enjoy herself as much as she would if the baby were right there with her.

One way a mom can get a “break” other than napping, is to take a break WITH her baby. That way, with the freedom to breastfeed whenever the baby wants to, she can do what she wants, and she has the reassurance of knowing where the baby is and what he is doing! Of course, sometimes mom really does have to do something where she can’t bring her baby: such as an important appointment at an adult-only event.

But these instances will hopefully be occasional and not daily events. There really are very few places you can’t bring a tiny breastfeeding baby. Older children who are eating solids can usually manage for a short while without mom, and then usually look forward to breastfeeding when mom returns.

Also, mixing breastfeeding and formula-feeding disrupts the nice rhythm that evolves with breastfeeding. Formula can fill the baby up, and make him not want to breastfeed as much, and mom’s milk production will diminish, although her milk quantity will increase as breastfeeding increases, assuming the baby is properly latched onto the breast and feeding often enough.

But bottles, even occasional ones, can markedly affect the baby’s proper latch on the breast, and affect the breast’s ability to produce milk if the baby alters his latch. So if you really need to be away from the baby, you can have someone cup-feed your expressed breastmilk until you return. Or give the baby a few bites of table food, if he is over six months or so.

Even a few minutes of pacifier use can seem harmless. But baby can actually remove a lot of breastmilk in five minutes — and thus “place his order” for the next feeding. Keeping the artificial gadgets out of the picture helps ensure the most abundant milk production possible — and a happier, healthier baby.

And if mom needs to be away from baby often, all the more reason to breastfeed when she IS home with the baby — breastfeeding offers baby security and provides both mom and baby the chance to re-connect with that special and wonderful bond that breastfeeding helps to create.

So I think the best thing is to find ways to protect the breastfeeding no matter how hectic life gets, and to help mom make it as easy as possible. As far as formula goes, not only is it not really easier, there are also many other disadvantages which we will discuss later — see the article about the formula industry, under the menu item EMPOWERMENT.