If one chooses to have a child, shouldnt he or she be obligated to do what is best for that child? There are many important choices to make for that child, and some may be more difficult than others. Hospital or home birth? Pampers or Huggies? Crib or family bed? But when it comes to feeding, the choice is clear. Breast-feeding is the best choice that mothers can make for themselves and their child. Not everyone agrees that breast-feeding is the best choice. Some argue that bottle feeding is democratic and gives other members of the family a chance to feed the baby.
I agree that family members need a chance to experience the thrill of nourishing the new life, but giving the child a bottle of formula is not necessary. Mothers can express breast milk and put it into a bottle when other family members want to feed the child. Most new mothers are eager to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight. Some may choose to formula feed so that they can stop eating for two and maybe even diet, things which are impossible for a nursing mother.
On the other hand, a women who is producing milk uses between 1,000 and 3,500 calories per day more than at other times in her life (Lim 63). With all of the extra calories burned, she may not need to diet at all to reach her desired weight (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 7). A new mother may choose to bottle feed because she wants to monitor intake and make sure that her child is getting enough. Breasts arent calibrated to measure babys intake and one might worry that their child is not getting full (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 6).
This concern is unnecessary because the hind milk, the milk that a baby gets at the end of a nursing session, is higher in calories than that at the beginning, and tends to make a baby feel full (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 4). Some women choose not to breast-feed because they have heard the common myth that breast-feeding causes jaundice, or excess bilirubin in the skin that causes a baby to look yellow (Lim 70). This belief is unfounded.
Breast-feeding is actually the best thing that you could do for a jaundice baby because colostrum, the rich fluid that comes in before your milk, actually acts as a laxative to help the baby pass meconium, a babys first bowel movement, which is high in bilirubin (Lim 70). There are many reasons to breast-feed, but the most important reasons have to do with the health of you and your child. Did you know that breast-feeding is possibly linked to reducing the risk of breast cancer that occurs before menopause (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 5).
Nursing also helps a women recover after child birth. It is part of a natural cycle and will help your uterus go back to pre-pregnancy size. Besides helping you recover from child birth, breast-feeding may keep you from getting pregnant again right away. Most nursing mothers do not ovulate or menstruate until their babies begin to take significant supplementation, such as formula or solid foods (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 5). Protection from pregnancy is a bonus, but the best thing about breast-feeding is how easy it is.
Bringing your baby to your breast at 3:00 am is a lot easier than getting up, boiling water, letting it cool, mixing up formula, and putting together a bottle, all while your hungry baby vocalizes his or her need. Breast-feeding will help a new mother to get a little more of her much needed sleep. Even without the benefits for the mother, breast-feeding would be the best choice. Breast-milk is the perfect food for a child. It is individualized for each baby, so they are rarely allergic to it, and if they are, its probably just something that the mother ate (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 3).
Breast milk changes constantly to meet a babys ever changing needs (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 3). Breast-milk contains at least a hundred ingredients that are not found in cows milk and that cant be synthesized in the laboratory (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 3). Breast-milk is also easier for your baby to digest. It is designed for a human babys sensitive and still-developing digestive system (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 3). Breast-fed babies may be less likely to suffer from colic, gas, and excessive spitting up (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 3).
In addition, breast milk does pass on substances that build up a childs immune system for as long as a women nurses, says Judy Hopkins, Ph. D. , assistant professor at USDA/ARS Childrens Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (qtd. in Hagan 45). Nursing ensures that the illnesses a breast-fed baby gets wont be as severe as those affecting formula-fed babies (Hagan 45). Breast-fed babies are hospitalized less often and a recent study suggests that they may have a decreased risk of childhood cancer (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway 4).
All of these health advantages should be enough to make any mother want to nurse, but as almost any mother whos ever breast-fed will tell you, the breast-feeding benefit that they treasure most is the bond it builds between mother and child. Nothing compares to being skin to skin and eye to eye, and cuddling with your child several times a day. As more and more women learn about the benefits of breast-feeding, we may see an increase towards this priceless feeding method. Most parents want to do what is best for their little one, and nursing is definitely the best thing.