The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous for both babies and mothers. The saying “breast is best” was coined by people who knew what they were talking about. Human breast milk provides the baby with crucial nutrients and immune support while triggering hormonal shifts in mom that help the uterus recover, decrease bleeding, and fight postpartum depression. Breastfeeding also provides a profound bonding opportunity and can be emotionally nourishing for both mother and baby. For all these reasons, pediatricians recommend that women breastfeed for at least the first six months (if not the first year) of a child’s life.
Though breastfeeding is ideal, it’s important to note that it is not always easy or feasible to establish, and that bottle-fed babies now have largely similar health outcomes. “Breast is best,” while true, has also made a lot of women unduly anxious when breastfeeding turns out to be a huge, time consuming, sometimes painful struggle, and so it’s good to remember that other, equally true saying: “fed is best.”
Many couples turn to formula or some combination of bottle and breast when babies struggle to latch or mothers struggle to produce an adequate milk supply (common when a baby is delivered by C-section) or experience other obstacles. Infections can also hamper efforts to breastfeed, as can modern work schedules, which necessitate pumping and often lead to breast milk feedings being supplemented with formula.
Luckily, with partners working together and support from lactation consultants, most feeding problems can be resolved in a happy, healthy way.