There is breastmilk and there is formula. These are the two substances to choose from when feeding a baby. There are some very distinct differences between the two. In fact, there really is no comparison. Breastmilk has the perfect composition for your baby to digest at whatever stage of development they are at.
Most of the discussion about breastfeeding speaks into the benefits for mother and for baby. Those are numerous. Babies have less respiratory infections, and ear infections. Mothers have lower risk of ovarian and breast cancer. These are just a few.
While these benefits are great to discuss and share with parents, there doesn’t seem to be as much discussion on the hazards or the risks of formula. It is imperative that parents be fully informed of their options so the choice they make is based on all of the facts. It is the responsibility of the parents to be informed. All medical and non-medical birth workers such as doulas and childbirth educators that serve these parents will ideally be able to share this information.
“For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome. For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, and the metabolic syndrome.” -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812877/ .
The risks mentioned above make no mention of the emotional risks associated with formula feeding. Bonding is crucial for the optimal development of newborns. Mothers who formula (bottle) feed can and do bond with their babies. I have noticed in my twenty something years of postpartum doulaing that often times the formula fed baby gets fed by a variety of caretakers, which does lessen the MotherBaby time together, and the skin to skin time. It is important to know that MotherBaby is a dyad. The newborn baby has no idea they are a separate being from their mother.
What a mother chooses to feed her baby is her prerogative. All mothers and families have the responsibility and the right to be fully informed of benefits and risks of all options before choosing. When it comes to formula or breastmilk the United States does not enforce the WHO Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Women and families receive the message that formula is the next best thing to breastmilk. This is not true.
Whether you are in the process of choosing what and how to feed your baby, or you are a doula, doula trainer or childbirth educator who works with these families, please be fully informed of the facts about formula and breastmilk. Solid, evidence-based information and education is key to transforming beliefs that perpetuate misinformation, myths, and falsities about formula and breastmilk.
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