Baby advice circulates much like football gossip. One day you’ll be told that formula milk has the full backing of the board, then tomorrow’s newspaper reports that formula milk has left the shelves by mutual consent. Some parents give their baby both breast and formula milk. Some will give just breast milk and some will give just formula. There isn’t one perfect answer to this, so it helps to be equipped with some key knowledge:
The benefits of breastfeeding
One of the great things about breast feeding is that it’s an amazing bonding experience between mum and baby. Little ones just love to snuggle up and enjoy a good feed, sometimes falling fast asleep mid-feed, drunk on breast milk. Once a baby has latched on, it’s also incredibly convenient for a mum to feed a baby from the breast, as opposed to going through the bottle-making rigmarole required for a formula feed.
One of the biggest benefits of all when it comes to breast feeding is its nutritional value for your baby. Breast milk gives your baby the nutrients it needs and helps build up a stronger immune system. In fact, a mum’s breast milk actually adapts as her baby grows, ensuring that the little one has the right nutrients for its age. The benefits are said to last into adulthood too. There are also health benefits for the mum – with breastfeeding helping to reduce the risks of some cancers and diseases. Breast feeding can also help a mum recover from the birth and lose some excess weight she gained through pregnancy. So that’s a thumbs up! Here are some other benefits we’ve found personally:
- Night feeds are often a lot easier – there’s no getting up and making bottles. You’ll probably not suffer as much sleep deprivation!
- It’s on tap – the baby doesn’t get wound up whilst waiting for the kettle to boil and the milk to then cool down.
- There’s nothing to sterilise!
- It’s FREE!
- Dads can still get involved if the mum expresses.
What are the benefits of bottle feeding?
If breast milk is your team captain, who’s come through the club’s youth academy, then formula milk is the new big-money signing from abroad. It costs you a lot more money and just doesn’t deliver the same results.
So feeding your baby formula milk doesn’t come with the nutritional advantages of breast feeding and it does cost you more money. So why do people use formula milk and are there any benefits?
Less effort and less pain. Some mothers can struggle with the breast feeding process or simply don’t want to breast feed for their own personal reasons. It’s quite common for mums to start with just breast feeding and then be concerned that they’re not able to give the baby all the food he needs. Being able to grab a formula bottle, or better still, having you there to take the load and get involved in night feeds, means that there is less stress and strain on the mum. A few of the benefits of bottle feeding include:
- You know exactly how much your little one has drunk.
- They’ll definitely be fed (you’ll have fewer worries about whether they’re getting enough food – which can be a concern in the early days).
- Anyone can feed them – which can’t be said for breast-feeding.
- Your wife won’t end up with one breast much bigger than the other (if that bothers her) or sore, cracked nipples – which can be an excruciating side effect of breast-feeding.
Combining breast and bottle milk
Bottle milk is used by some parents as a sort of ‘top-up’ if mum has run out of natural supplies. If this happens, it’s important that mum doesn’t feel like she’s been subbed off and replaced by bottle milk, so be supportive and encouraging.
Using formula milk to supplement breast milk could become a vicious circle if it’s not monitored. If your baby is having more regular feeds of formula milk, then the baby will not need so much breast milk. As a result, the mum may start to produce less milk. With less breast milk being produced, there’s a fair chance you’ll use more formula to supplement. And so on and so forth. So if you’re keen on breast-feeding, it’s wise to consider how much formula milk is being used as the alternative option for feeding your baby.
How do I know if my baby has had enough milk?
Your baby will be on breast milk (or formula milk) alone from birth to around 4-6 months.
If you (or more specifically your partner) are breastfeeding then your baby will drink a very concentrated type of breast milk called colostrum. As the milk is going straight from the breast to the baby, it can be difficult to tell exactly how much milk they’re drinking. Babies only need about a teaspoon full of this stuff when they’re first born, and after a couple of days, your partner will begin to produce more and more breast milk.
It’s rare for women to not produce enough breast milk for their baby, but good signs that babies are drinking enough milk are that a) they’re having their first wet nappies (and soft yellowy stool after 3-5 days), b) they’re relaxed during feeds, and c) they are relaxed after feeds.
From after a couple of weeks old they’ll need around 150-200ml of milk per kilo of their body weight.
Signs that a baby is hungry include moving around as soon as they wake up, putting their fingers in their mouth and moving their head and mouth around. Crying for food is another sign – and you’ll start to identify the particular crying sound so you know that they’re ready to eat.
After a week, things usually work themselves out and your partner and baby get into a good flow. After a feed your baby will probably appear very chilled out and relaxed – similar to yourself after a few beers.
What actually is formula milk?
Formula milk has actually been around since the 19th century. Before then, if your baby wasn’t being breast-fed by its mum, it’d probably have been suckling on the teat of another mother. Formula milk used to be made up of animal milk, and then it was made from evaporated milk, before becoming what we know today as commercial formula milk, which is meant to closer replicate the benefits of breast milk. Formula milk was huge in the 50s and 60s, with reports of more than half of babies being formula fed, before breast feeding made a big resurgence from the 70s.
The infant formula milk given to newborns today is based on cow’s milk whey and babies being formula-fed tend to stay on this until they are 6 months old, when solid foods are then introduced. For all this sort stuff, consult the club doctor.
Should I give my baby water?
The breast milk is all the drink breast-fed babies really need – so no Sheringham–Gazza dentist’s chair celebrations required. However, if your little one is on the formula, then they might fancy a bottle of (cool boiled) water, particularly in hot weather to reduce the risk of dehydration – in which case let the celebrations commence!
Well, I hope that’s powered you with everything you need to know about breast-feeding and bottle-feeding.