Is breast always best?

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Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to breast or formula-feeding, but who’s right?

Health professionals often recommend breastfeeding as it helps to defend against infection, prevent allergies and protect babies from a number of chronic conditions. However, some mothers find they are unable to breastfeed or that it simply doesn’t come naturally to them. Infant formula can offer a healthy alternative, giving babies the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

The pros and cons of breastfeeding

Pros:

  • It’s a great way to bond with your baby, maximising skin-to-skin contact
  • Breastfeeding may protect babies against allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Breast milk is easy for babies to digest, reducing incidents of diarrhoea or constipation
  • Breastfeeding is convenient as you’ll never run out and you don’t have to worry about sterilising bottles or heating up formula
  • The baby is exposed to different tastes through the mother’s milk
  • Breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing mums may return to their pre-pregnancy shape more quickly
  • Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of certain cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • It’s free!

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Cons:

  • Some mothers struggle to breastfeed and it can take weeks to get into a routine
  • Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable and even painful. It can also lead to infections, which may require antibiotics
  • Breastfeeding requires a big time commitment from mums
  • It can be inconvenient to breastfeed while out and about if there is nowhere discreet to do so
  • Women who breastfeed need to be careful about their diet, for example alcohol, caffeine and fish consumption
  • Breastfeeding may be unsafe for women with certain conditions, such as HIV or cancer
  • Breast milk may not contain as much vitamin D as the baby needs, although this can be rectified with supplements

The pros and cons of formula-feeding

The pros:

  • Bottle-feeding allows dads to develop a feeding bond
  • Bottle-fed babies tend to eat less than breastfed babies, so feeding may be less time-consuming
  • Formulas may contain some vitamins and nutrients that breastfed babies can only get from supplements
  • Bottle-feeding is a more enjoyable and less painful experience for some mums
  • Mum doesn’t have to be on hand every time the baby is hungry (although mums who express milk can also enjoy this benefit)
  • There is no need to express milk if the mother is likely to be away from the baby for any length of time
  • You won’t have to find a private place to feed when you’re out and about
  • There are fewer diet constraints

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Cons:

  • Formula-fed babies may be at greater risk of infection and illness
  • Breast milk adapts to the baby’s needs, which cannot be replicated by man-made formula
  • Formula feeding requires planning and organisation. You’ll need to have a healthy supply of formula and sterilised bottles wherever you are – even in the middle of the night!
  • It’s more expensive than breastfeeding, especially if your baby needs speciality formula. Estimates suggest formula costs could amount to around £1,200 in the first year
  • Bottle-fed babies may produce more gas or suffer from constipation

mimijumi

Best of both worlds

It may be possible to combine the two methods, maximising the benefits of each feeding option. You could even use bottles with breast milk rather than formula if that’s the best solution for you.

Sarah Williams, general manager at mimijumi, says: ‘We’re wholly supportive of breastfeeding. It’s the ideal feeding method, and mothers who can breastfeed for as long as possible, especially for 12 months or more, are providing the best possible health benefits for their babies.

‘But often mums who have exclusively breastfed for the first part of their child’s life find that it’s very difficult to continue exclusively breastfeeding when they return to work, or have other commitments that take them away from home for any length of time.

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‘The mimijumi bottle and teat are uniquely designed to make the transition between exclusive breastfeeding to combination or bottle-feeding as easy as possible. Nipple confusion is significantly reduced when babies switch to our bottles.

‘The baby uses the same technique to latch on to a mimijumi nipple as it would do with breastfeeding, and baby also controls the flow rate, so it enables mums to switch backwards and forwards from breast to bottle with relative ease compared with more traditional baby bottle designs, and this will hopefully extend the period for which mothers are able to breastfeed.

‘Our aim is to enable busy mothers to both breast and bottle-feed in combination, which also allows partners and other caregivers to become involved with feeding.’

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