How to Feed a Baby

Newborns and infants all require some of the basic needs of nutrition and sleep, but choosing a method of feeding your baby can seem anything but basic. The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding as the most optimal choice for feeding your baby, but that does not mean that infant formula is not a viable option for many mothers and babies. The decision between bottle and breastfeeding should weigh many factors, and should include discussions with your baby’s pediatrician.

How Do You Choose Between a Bottle and Breastfeeding?

Choosing between breastfeeding and bottle feeding is something that you should ideally begin considering long before your baby is born. There are many factors that will influence your decision, and the best way to ensure a successful plan for you and your baby is to consider the pros and cons of each, and how those fit into your personal life.

Why Breast if Best

According to Dr. Jay Hoecker of the world-renown Mayo Clinic, breast milk is considered the “gold standard for infant nutrition” as it contains all of the essential nutrients that your baby needs. Most pediatricians agree that breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6months of life, and then feeding breast milk and infant-appropriate foods until 12 months of age, is the best option. Breast milk:

  • Boosts your baby’s immune system and helps protect them against illnesses
  • Helps to decrease your baby’s risk of dying from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • Decreases the number of ear infections your baby is likely to have
  • Reduces the likeliness that your child will develop cardiovascular disease
  • Reduces the chances that your child will become obese

Some studies also show that breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first 6 months of life reduces the rates of hospitalization of infants for pneumonia. Your baby is not the only one who benefits from the decision to breastfeed. Your own risks of developing breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers are reduced when you breastfeed your infant for at least those first 6 months of life. It also reduces your risks of developing Type II Diabetes and postpartum depression, and can save you money on formula and bottle supplies. Breast milk is also readily available and does not require any heating for middle of the night feedings. As your baby develops a healthy feeding schedule you can pump breast milk and share the feeding experience with your baby’s father and have the ability to provide this nutrition while away from your baby.

Why Should I Bottle Feed My Baby?

Even though breastfeeding is usually the healthiest choice for both baby and mom, there are certain circumstances that make bottle feeding a healthy option as well. If you are experiencing your own health problems and breastfeeding requires too much of your own physical energy and strength, there are health formula options available for your baby, including allergy-sensitive ingredients. Because everything you consume affects the breast milk your body produces, any medications you need will also be passed through to your baby. Be sure to talk with your physician about the risks this might mean to your baby, or to you, if you decide to stop taking the medications. Bottle feeding can also be more convenient for mothers who work away from home, especially for extended periods of time.

Breastfeeding is the most recommended feeding option for babies and mothers. However, if necessary your baby can get the basic needed nutrients from quality formulas. If you decide to try breastfeeding, consider finding a lactation consultant in your area to help support your efforts and answer any questions about how to feed a baby.


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