With a new baby in the house, you probably have a lot of questions. What kind of clothes should I buy? How often should I bathe my baby? Should we be using formula or breastfeeding?
We’ll start with the basics. Baby formula is made from cow’s milk to resemble breast milk as closely as possible. Formula is typically better for babies who can’t breastfeed for certain reasons, like if their mother has HIV or cancer and can’t breastfeed them herself or due to food allergy in babies. Babies who are colicky, have bad reflux that makes it hard to nurse, are premature, or are addicted to opioids may also be better off on formula rather than nursing.
- You’ll have more freedom.
You may have heard that babies naturally nurse every one to three hours and will be unhappy if you don’t follow their schedule completely. That’s not true! In fact, it’s easier on you if your baby nurses on a regular schedule rather than following a clock. When babies nurse on a schedule, you can count on getting some sleep at night. You’ll also know when she needs to be fed during the day: just check the clock!
- It’s safe for most children, but there may be exceptions.
No matter what kind of milk they drink, children should get enough vitamin D and iron each day. Both are important for healthy growth and development of the body and brain. But some children are deficient in these vitamins and need supplements. Many doctors and health experts recommend that manufacturers include vitamin D and iron in baby formula.
- Babies that aren’t breastfed are more likely to develop allergies.
Babies who grow up on formula are more likely to be allergic to cow’s milk than breastfed babies. This is something to consider if you’re planning on breastfeeding but wonder if it’s really worth the trouble! Some experts think allergies from formula may be a cause of many other problems, such as asthma, eczema, food sensitivities, and digestive problems such as bloating or gas.
- You’ll save money.
On average, parents spend about $400 on formula in the first year of their baby’s life. For some families, baby formula can be a financial burden and make life difficult. If it’s important to you that you only use breast milk for your baby, talk to the doctor about how you can plan for the costs with your family budget. Some families have found ways to get free or low-cost breast milk by donating their own extra breast milk or having a wet nurse provide breast milk as well.
- Your baby will get all the nutrients she needs.
The nutrients in formula come almost as close to matching breast milk as possible. Babies who are exclusively fed formula are more likely to hit their growth and developmental milestones on time than babies who don’t drink any breast milk at all. Studies show that exclusive breastfed babies do have higher IQs, but scientists aren’t sure if it’s the breast milk that makes a difference or other factors like breastfeeding moms’ education level or family income. (In fact, studies show that mothers with lower incomes can provide just as much nutrition by supplementing their baby’s diet with formula.)
No matter how you feed your baby, the most important thing is to do what’s best for her! If breastfeeding is something that you really want to do, then it may be worth the extra effort. If not, you can still have a happy and healthy baby on formula.