When preparing to bring home an infant, whether your own newborn from the hospital after a tumultuous battle to bring them into this world or from the arms of a woman who is entrusting you to raise her child as your own, there are so many decisions that need to be made and little things to consider as we choose what’s best for both the baby and the family. Perhaps one of the most important things to consider apart from how much love you can shower them with, is how you’ll provide nourishment for your little one. With so much convincing information on the benefits of breastmilk and the tempting ease of formula, it can get so confusing. In this day in age when there are so many environmental concerns and so many different products out on the market, decision fatigue is the last kind of fatigue you need, not when you’re preparing yourself for the big changes that are on their way. With that being said, let’s break down the pros and cons of both formula and breastfeeding to see what the best option is for everyone involved.
First off, breastmilk prevents infections and other common illnesses like ear infections and lowers risk for allergies. It also lowers the risk of obesity and type 1 and 2 diabetes. With a nearly 40% rate of obesity in America, 18.5% in youth alone, and around 11% rate of diabetes, doing everything we can to prevent the number from increasing and even the hope of lowering it starts with actions we take early on and the habits we form even as infants. Because formula is easier to digest and takes less effort than breastfeeding, it’s easy for your adorable baby to get carried away with feeding time, especially when they’re in the loving arms of all those who care for them. Regulating how much formula your baby is consuming and avoiding overfeeding can tremendously help in maintaining a healthy weight as they grow big and strong.
Another reason there’s a higher risk for obesity and diabetes in babies fed exclusively formula is in what it’s made of, or the lower quality formula to be a bit more specific. With the cost of formula increasing and the yearly cost looking a bit alarming, it’s only natural to try to get the most affordable formula out there. That is certainly not the case when you turn the package and look at the ingredient list. Many cheaper brands of formula include using sugar and high fructose corn syrup as the base for the carbohydrates. High fructose corn syrup has been linked to obesity and overall weight gain as well as heart disease, cancer and it doesn’t provide as many nutrients like complex carbohydrates like the ones found in breastmilk.
There is a downside to the “ingredients” inside breastmilk. With breastfeeding, whatever the mother consumes, the baby consumes, meaning that you have to be more careful with what’s in the breastmilk rather than formula which will always be consistent. Therefore, we need to keep in mind that the no caffeine and alcohol rule still applies when breastfeeding which can be tricky when all you really need that cup a joe to start your morning and a glass of red at the end of a long day.
Therefore, as long as we all remain observant, read our packaging labels, and don’t skip out on the good stuff, formula is completely safe among its many benefits. Reaching for top-shelf formula so to speak is made to mimic breast milk rather than using fillers which is a little more costly, but will benefit your child in the long run as a worthy investment. The issues listed above in regards to formula feeding will only happen if you’re not monitoring how much you’re feeding your baby which can happen even with breastfeeding and perhaps even more easily since you can’t keep track of how much your baby is consuming. Checking the fill lines on the sides of bottles will help you on your journey to understand how much he or she really needs. Taking the time to use a feeding diary to track both the time and amount, or using an app on your phone will make it fuss-free to assure your baby is happy but most importantly healthy. It will be especially helpful for anyone else who you trust to feed your baby because they now know exactly when to feed and how much, making it an easier routine rather than a guessing game of who fed who how much and when, ugh.
Formula is also great if you notice signs of lactose intolerance as the lactose in breastmilk comprises around 40% of the calories, as well as supplementing things like vitamin D which will need to be supplemented if you choose to use breastmilk. This intern might be the only option if you notice your baby having tummy pain and symptoms of intolerance to breastmilk. When your baby is feeding eight to twelve times a day, assuring that they’re happy and healthy will make the constant routine enjoyable rather than something you dread.
Of course, if you’re struggling with the very much involved process of feeding, ensuring that you get enough skin to skin contact with your child even with bottle feedings ensures that the child is calm and relaxed, their temperature is stable as well as their heart rate and breathing, and it stimulates digestion and interest in feeding if they appear uninterested.
On the topic of frequency. It’s no secret that using formula is much more convenient, especially in public. Breastfed babies also need to be fed more often because of breastmilk’s easy digestion, so it’s not only more convenient but also less of a hassle on the go since they can wait longer between feedings.
Now, if you’re still wondering how it might be possible to breastfeed your adopted child if that’s the option you’re leaning towards, there are certainly ways. With some patience and persistence, you can begin to use a breast pump which will slowly induce lactation even if you’ve never been pregnant. Your body will begin gradually producing milk over time and as you increased the length of each session. Though you may not produce enough milk to feed the baby solely on your breastmilk alone, it’s still a huge advantage over just formula even if you’re using both.
If inducing lactation is not something that’s right for you or you’re just not producing enough milk, but you still want to reap the benefits of trying to breastfeed as exclusively from breastmilk as you can, you can seek the help of the many other mothers who share the common goal of raising healthy and happy children. Whether that be your mom-friends or women from your church, if they’ve been blessed with abundance and are producing more milk than they need, that’s always an option. You can also find donated breastmilk from mothers who are more than happy to help those in need. You can go to your hospital, donation bank, or reach out and find donors in your area. With the rise of the internet both providing much-needed information and ways to contact others, you’ll surely find the resources to give your baby exactly what they need.
However, if those options aren’t available and formula seems to be the only option, the birth mother, the adoptive mother, and family alike can rest assured knowing that formula is a perfectly safe alternative to breastmilk. Also, with the rate of adoption growing every year, baby formula is at a higher demand than ever before and the many advancements made over the last fifty-plus years, baby formula has now reached a point through much research and trial and error where it closely resembles breast milk which was for a time, the only option, even using drastic measures to obtain the liquid gold.
In conclusion, we all want what’s best for our little ones. Whether breastmilk is available to you or using formula is your only option, as long as the child grows up in a healthy loving home smothered with love and affection, everything should work out just fine. The greatest gift God gave us is love, and that should always be the center and foundation of everything we do. The decisions we make along the way should be made in that same love and that’s what truly matters, not all the minute differences in the decisions we make every day. Therefore, let’s let our Father’s all-consuming and unconditional love guide us through each and every one of them.