Monday, July 27, 2009

Bottle or breast feeding? New mothers weigh option

REGIONAL—The newfound joy of having a baby can be quite overwhelming for some parents.

With constant decisions having to be made, how do you know if you’re making the right one?

One major decision that will need to be made as soon as the baby is born is whether to use formula or breast feed.

Cheryl Tracy, a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant at Orange City Area Health System, recommends the latter.

“I encourage all expectant moms to breast feed. It’s definitely a baby’s best start, and it’s a parenting style that is a special one,” Tracy said. “There is a bond between mom and baby that can’t be replicated by any other process.”

Tracy would know, she speaks from experience.

After having four children, each of whom she breast fed, Tracy said she has formed a special bond with each that would not have happened otherwise.

“It was that part of being a mom that I so thoroughly enjoyed that I decided to become a lactation consultant — to help other moms enjoy it the way I did, to educate them on the benefits of breast feeding and to be there to help them with the bumps in the road that come along during the process,” Tracy said.

Here’s a closer look at how breast feeding compares to formula:

Q: What are the benefits to breast feeding?
A: There are a lot of them, but a big thing that comes to mind are the health benefits for babies. Research says that babies who are breast fed tend to have less ear infections, less GI (gastrointestinal) infections and their immune system is boosted from breast feeding.

Q: Does breast milk contain anything formula does not?
A: Breast milk as 200-plus ingredients that formula cannot match. The white blood cells, which are the living cells in breast milk, help with immune responses.

Q: If a baby was strictly fed on formula as opposed to breast milk, would they see different effects?
A: I definitely think so. You cannot manufacture those immune properties and living cells that come in breast milk, so they would definitely be missing out on that aspect. The neat thing about breast milk is that it is specifically geared toward that baby the mom is feeding. Breast milk of a prematurely delivered baby is different than breast milk for a baby born at full term. It changes as the baby grows, and formula pretty much stays the same and doesn’t change with the needs of the baby.

Q: As the baby gets older, does breast milk provide more nutrients to aid in the growth process?
A: As the weaning process ensues as the baby gets close to a year or older, the nutrients are concentrated. So, as a baby is breast fed less frequently, it will still get those benefits.

Q: How long should a baby be breast fed?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a baby is breast fed for the first year of life, but the World Health Organization recommends breast feeding a baby until their second year of life.

Q: Does breast milk taste differently than formula?
A: I’m sure babies would tell you that it does. A baby will prefer their mom’s milk and often don’t tolerate formula as well.

Q: Are there any benefits for mothers who are breast feeding? A: A mom tends to lose weight she gains during the pregnancy more quickly if she breast feeds, because it uses calories to make breast milk. There is also research out there that says moms who breast feed face a reduced risk of breast cancer and other reproductive organ cancers. Research also shows that moms who breast feed face a reduced risk of osteoporosis.

Q: Are there any specific diets a mother who is breast feeding should follow? A: There are no specific things to include or avoid. I always tell moms to eat what they want in moderation, just like all of us need to do.

Q: What about smoking or drinking alcohol while breast feeding? A: The benefits of breast milk still outweigh the exposure to nicotine, but I always counsel moms not to expose their baby to secondhand smoke and to not smoke around babies. You can time the breast feeding, where the baby is breast fed and then the mom has a cigarette, and by the time the next feeding occurs, you’re at your lowest level of nicotine. But, I always encourage moms that anytime is a great time to quit smoking, whether that’s during their pregnancy or while they are breast feeding. As for alcohol, it is present in breast milk as well as in the blood stream. Alcohol is metabolized out of breast milk as it is out of the blood stream. It is recommended for every drink a mom consumes, she wait two hours to breast feed.

This article appeared in the July 25, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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