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Dear Debi,
I'm pregnant & I'm hearing a lot about breastfeeding. Feeding my baby formula seems so much easier & more convenient. What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Mary Hipp
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Breast milk provides ideal nutrition
  • Breastfed babies tend to be healthier
  • Breastfeeding may not be easy for all women
  • Commercially prepared formulas can be nutritious alternatives to breast milk
  • Talk with your pediatrician to ensure your baby's nutritional needs are met
Expert Advice
Dr. Joan Younger Meek
Dr. Joan Younger Meek
Breastfeeding really benefits both the baby and the mother. The advantages for the baby are fewer ear infections, fewer gastro intestinal infections and a lower chance of pneumonia. The long-term benefits of breastfeeding a baby appear to be a lower risk of obesity and diabetes (type 1 & type 2). Breastfeeding also seems to cut the risk of certain cancers and appears to help the baby's cognitive development.

Breastfeeding benefits the mother as well. There appears to be a decreased breast cancer risk, decreased ovarian cancer risk, and a decreased osteoporosis risk. Women who breastfeed tend to lose their pregnancy weight gain more quickly. Also, mothers who breastfeed are less likely to conceive while breastfeeding - helping space out the time between children, which is healthier for the mother.

Breastfeeding isn't an easy choice for some women. If a new mom doesn't have a support system of family members or friends who have breastfed, she may not have societal role models. We always see images in the media of babies being fed bottles - very few images of babies being breastfed.

It's more common for women to experience problems with breastfeeding when they don't know what to expect. Some hospitals don't give new mothers enough information about breastfeeding. If the baby isn't latching on correctly, this can cause the mother pain. Many mothers give up on breastfeeding.

The difference between breast milk and formula is that formula is based on cow's milk and is highly modified. Fats are taken out and re-added. Sugars are taken out and re-added. Formula is perfectly fine for women who can't breastfeed, but breast milk is a natural product of the mother. It is ideally suited for a baby's nutritional needs. The baby also receives whole cells from the mother's milk, boosting the baby's immune system. Some studies show that adults who were breastfed as babies have stronger immune systems.

The taste of formula doesn't change for the baby. The taste of breast milk changes with what the mother eats. This gets the baby used to different flavors he will experience when he is being weaned from breast milk to solid food.
Child Care Provider Comments
Chie Mabrey-Benam
Chie Mabrey-Benam
Working mother & breastfeeding
I chose to breastfeed my first baby and it worked for me so I decided to do it again. I was breastfed and my mom said it was best. It is cheaper and more convenient. In the middle of the night, you don't have to make bottles. I don't get out of bed at night. I roll over, grab him, nurse him and we both go back to sleep.
Nikki Maxwell
Nikki Maxwell
Breastfeeding her third child
I didn't breastfeed my first two children, but I'm breastfeeding my third child. I felt like with bottles somehow I wasn't having the same experience that I thought other mothers were having. Breastfeeding is a really important bonding opportunity. There are a lot of studies showing the benefits to babies, but there are benefits to the mom emotionally, in terms of our own expectations of what it means to be a mom. The kind of mom that I want to be is the kind that breastfeeds.
Veronica Yanez
Veronica Yanez
Mother of a 5-year-old
I take care of Chie's son a couple times a week while she is at work. She will pump the milk into a bottle and when he is hungry, I feed it to him. He eats about every 2-3 hours. Chie will leave me 2-3 bottles of breast milk. I will give her son a bottle of her breast milk. When I run out, I use the formula.

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