One of the earliest decisions that every new mother has to make is whether to breastfeed or formula feed her infant. The World Health Organization (WHO), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA) and doctors and health officials worldwide encourage mothers to breastfeed until their child is at least 6 months old, as breast milk contains an essential mix of nutrients and antibodies which not only nourishes newborns but also protects them from allergies, diseases and life-threading conditions. If both mother and child are willing, specialists recommend continuing until the child is 12 to 18 months old.
However, breastfeeding is not always possible due to a variety of circumstances, such as either the mother’s or the child’s health, comfort and lifestyle. In such cases, infant formula is the alternative. Mothers who choose to formula feed need not feel guilty; it is the act of feeding, and not the method, which is important for bonding between the mother and the child. Manufactured under sterile conditions, formula milk is designed to resemble breast milk as much as possible. Commercially available formula is available for every stage of an infant’s growth. Many mothers prefer formula feeding over breastfeeding, as it offers them convenience and a flexibility in their timetables, allowing them to not only share the joy of feeding her child with her partner, but also to be able to leave her baby with a caregiver and know that she need not worry about her child’s feedings. On top of that, mothers who are, for one reason or the other, medically unable to provide their children with breast milk can rest easy knowing that they have a ready alternative. This allows mothers with unhealthy or restricted diets to be able to provide their children with the required nutrients.
How To Choose the Right Formula
Once one decides to formula feed, the next step is choosing the right formula for their child. There are many things that one has to take into consideration. First off is the form of formula. Ready-made formulas are the most convenient – just open, attach a nipple directly to the bottle, and serve – and are especially useful for those who do not have access to safe drinking water. However, they are the most costly, are not as environmentally friendly, and have a lifespan of only 48 hours. Liquid concentrate formula and powdered formula both require mixing with water and serving in a separate bottle, and thus require more time for both preparation and sterilization. This also makes them cheaper, more environmentally friendly and with a shelf life of around a month. On top of that, they allow a flexibility in the amount: one can make as much or as little as is required. Once the form is decided, the next step is choosing the type of formula with the help of the child’s doctor. While most commercial baby formulas are based on cow’s milk, there are specialized formulas designed for a child’s individual needs, such as lactose-free formulas for the lactose intolerant; soy-based formulas for vegan households, or those infants who have trouble digesting the cow’s milk protein; formulas for children with poor health or specific diseases etc.
How to Choose the Right Bottle and Nipple
When using liquid concentrate or powdered formula, it is important to also buy baby bottles and nipples, both which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, the only things one should keep in mind when buying each are: which nipple fits best into their baby’s mouth, that the hole of the nipple is neither too big nor too small, and that the size of the bottle should be around the amount of milk one’s child regularly consumes. Before feeding, it is preferable to sterilize both in boiling water. For ready-to-use formulas, it is better to use a new nipple for every bottle; when reusing an old nipple, one should sterilize it in boiling water.
Despite its benefits, formula feeding is more expensive than breastfeeding, and as such cannot always be afforded by the very mothers who need it the most: the poor and the destitute. Post natal care, including the availability of affordable and trustworthy formula milk for infants, is a universal human right denied to women all over the world.