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Which Is Better: Breastfeeding or Bottle-Feeding?

Breast or bottle…which is better? That all depends on you and your baby. Here's a list of some of the pros and cons of each:

Breast versus Bottle-Feeding, a Comparison
Breastfeeding Pros Bottle-feeding Pros
Very convenient—no preparation or cleanup required Also convenient, especially if you use formula and disposable bottles
No need to use medication to dry up the milk you naturally produce No need to deal with breast-milk leakage if you're away from baby during feeding times
Nursing provides a time of close personal and physical bonding between Mom and baby Both Mom and Dad can bottle-feed the baby with equal ease
Nursing induces mild uterine contractions, helping the new mom regain her prepregnancy shape No need to deal with the breast pump

Hitting the Bottle

Bottle-feeding these days is much easier than when my parents had to do it. Bottles can be adequately sterilized in a dishwasher, if you have one, and many bottles come with presterilized inserts that are disposable after each feeding. There are bottles of every shape, size, and material—including some that are decorated with your favorite cartoon characters (your newborn probably hasn't had time to pick her favorites yet). There are bottles with special grips so baby has an easier time holding them when he is old enough to grab. There are bottles that almost seem capable of feeding baby without benefit of a grown up.

Bottle-feeding can mean both convenience and mobility and is a perfectly viable choice. Women who choose the bottle method often cite the impracticality of maintaining a breastfeeding schedule when they have to be away from home for work. They also like the freedom it gives them to share feeding responsibilities with their partners without having to fill bottles of expressed breast milk.

Momma's Own Milk?

Mom-isms

A breast pumpis a device designed to fit over the breast and, through suction, draw mother's milk out into a connected tube or bulb. The pump does work, but many women find it painful and bothersome to use.

For some, breastfeeding is like a religion. They can be as dogmatic as any sidewalk evangelist handing out pamphlets about salvation can be. One reason commonly cited in favor of nursing is that breastfeeding a baby, at least for the first year, provides increased immunity. Nature created humans with all that we need to survive on this planet. The baby receives her immunities and nourishment through her mother's milk. There is no food so perfectly designed for the human infant.

Another reason to consider nursing your newborn is that it allows for a special type of bonding. Mother and baby are closely connected in a way that will soon be replaced by baby's need for independence. These quiet moments are so precious and peaceful. Some of my most loving memories are of nursing my children. There is something incredibly womanly about being able to feed your child from your own body.

Of course there are many ways to bond with your baby. Women who adopt infants do not need to fear that their babies will not be as close as those who are able to nurse at their mother's breast.

A final reason for nursing is one that is purely mom-centered, but that doesn't make it any less valid a reason than any of the baby-centered ones. Breastfeeding gives a mother the feeling that this is something she can give the baby that no one else can give. New mothers typically have so many well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) people around them giving them advice that it is nice to have something no one else has—the royal breasts. When your mother or mother-in-law is being too pushy about the right way to fold a diaper or to dress the baby you can just say, “Excuse me, I have to nurse my baby now.”

But nursing is not for everybody. It hurts at first. You have to get used to it, and even then it sometimes can be uncomfortable. In addition, some women are uncomfortable with their bodies and feel self-conscious or inhibited about nursing. This is no crime. Society certainly supports this mixed sense of who we are as women. Breasts are so sexualized it is sometimes difficult to see ourselves as mothers and not the object of sexual attention. Some women literally feel like cows when they try nursing. If you have a negative image of yourself you will not be able to relax with it and nursing will be uncomfortable.

More on: Breastfeeding

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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