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Bottle Feeding: What You Need to Know

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 20 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Baby Formula Infant Formula Bottle

While virtually all experts agree that breast milk offers the most complete nutrition for babies, some mothers choose commercially prepared baby formula, which provides all of the nutrients necessary for infant growth and development. There are a variety of reasons for making this choice, from maternal health issues to simple personal preference.

While the current trend is to breastfeed, all mothers must decide for themselves how they wish to feed their babies. It is important to note that if bottle feeding is chosen, a commercially prepared, rather than homemade formula must be used. Today's infant formulas are more complete than ever before, providing a reasonable feeding choice that is nutritionally surpassed only by breast milk.

Bottle Feeding Advantages

Many mothers who choose baby formula cite convenience as the primary reason. Bottle fed babies can easily take feedings from their father or other caregiver, giving the mother a welcomed (and well deserved) break. Additionally, since baby formula digests more slowly than breast milk, most babies remain satisfied for longer periods of time and require fewer feedings. This can be especially advantageous for mothers who are caring for several children.

Breastfeeding mothers often rely on some use of formula to help supplement their babies' diets, especially when they must leave their baby in the care of another. Although pre-pumped breast milk may produce a sufficient stock to accommodate the baby's needs, having a bit of formula on hand can ease the mother's worries that her baby may get hungry when she is unavailable.

Bottle Feeding Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage to choosing commercially prepared baby formula is that it cannot provide all of the many advantages of mother's milk. Breastfed babies benefit from antibodies contained in their mother's milk that help them to have fewer ear and respiratory infections, allergies, asthma and even diabetes. While the old adage, "breast is best" remains true, some mothers, for their own personal reasons, choose formula.

The cost of formula feeding can be quite a deterrent, especially considering that breastfeeding need not add any expenses to a family's budget. In addition to the formula, parents must also purchase a supply of bottles, nipples, nursery water and bottle cleaning supplies. Parents who are on a strict spending plan must consider cost when considering whether to breastfeed or bottle feed their babies.

The lack of an "instantly ready" meal can sometimes be a hurdle for bottle feeding parents, who unlike breastfeeding mothers, must prepare and heat their babies' bottles as needed. From the baby's point of view, breast milk can often be easier to digest than formula, causing less gassiness and constipation.

Making Your Choice

While well-meaning friends and relatives are sure to offer their advice (even when it hasn't been requested), parents must ultimately make their own choice on whether to breastfeed or formula feed their babies. Many parents feel an enormous amount of pressure to conform to what others expect of them, but parenting means making choices and standing by them. Although new parents have a lot to handle, those who have been at it longer would likely advise them to simply relax and do their best. That is all that anyone could expect.

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