Boobies or Bottles?
The first few months to years of a newborns' life are the most critical, this time period will set up a lot of the framework for the rest or the Childs life. Let's take a look at the literature and determine the pros and cons or bottle feeding formula vs. feeding breast milk. For the majority of healthy term babies, breast milk will be the sole source of calories from carbs and fast and building blocks from proteins and amino acids for at least the first 3 to 12 months. Shaker et. al. determined "Research has indicated that parental attitudes are strong predictors of choice of infant feeding". Stating that none breast feeding parents hold a lot of misconceptions about the superiority of breastfeeding to formula. Proper education is imperative to encourage breast feeding and to stick with it. There are many barriers to breastfeeding, it can be difficult, time consuming and often painful. In Ann Thompson' book "Why don't women breast feed" she found research has shown in British women who do not breast feed it is evident that there are factors other than the inability to produce milk and/or deliver it to the baby that influence a woman against breast feeding. These studies have shown that a high proportion of those who choose to bottle feed their baby come from the lower socia-economic groups, have the minimal amount of educational experience, are younger when having their first baby, are more likely to have been bottle fed themselves, and are unlikely to have a close relative who approves of, or who is encouraging them to breastfeed. In Kramer's paper he states "Infants who are breastfed exclusively for 6 months experience less morbidity from gastrointestinal tract infection than infants who were mixed breastfed as of 3 or 4 months of age."
All of the research suggests that breastfeeding is superior to bottle-feeding formula, exclusive feeing is encouraged for the first 4-6months. The Health Canada Website states "Consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) global recommendation for public health, Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and sustained for up to 2 years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding to support nutrition needs, for immunological protection and growth and development of the baby. They state "Breastfeeding is recognized as the unequalled way to provide optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional nurturing of infants." The health Canada website addresses many myths about breastfeeding as well as provides many sources for education for families who are expecting. The most important takeaway is that breastfeeding is a normal transition in pregnancy and that mothers are encouraged to seek support to ensure the baby gets the nutrients it requires. Health Canada encourages support for those who chose not to breastfeed, however there is no scientific reason not to breastfeed, proper education before the baby is delivered is required to ensure parents make the decision that is best for the child.
For women who have trouble producing breast milk, there are medications available to aid in the production of breast milk. Parents must be cautious not to buy into pseudoscience, there are currently no effective herbs or foods for improving breast milk. The production of breast milk can increase in production on its own by increasing feedings through trial and error.
Barbara Golden in "Nutrition through the lifecycle" shows in figure 2.1 There are benefits to supplementing formula, when production is low or when the money suffers from poor nutrition, Iron especially can be low in newborns born in non-western countries. Unconsidered benefits of formula feeding are that the mother is not required, in case of mothers death, injury or illness. Formula should be used as a supplement if needed. Many factors can influence cessation of feeding however Pacifier use is highly correlated with early weaning, even after controlling for possible confounders according to Barros et. al. In conclusion, the superiority of breast feeding has been long known, it's suggested that babies are exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months and supplementary breast fed for up to 2 years for optimal health. The choice is ultimately yours, and health Canada stands by supporting those who chose not to, however if you're properly informed and situation allows, they hope you'll make the correct choice.