Did you know that around 60% of mothers do not or cannot breastfeed their babies as long as they intend to or at all? Some choose not to breastfeed due to cultural norms, lack of family support or a busy work schedule. In contrast, many moms cannot, as they face issues with latching and lactation. Ideally, breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby. But, it may be difficult for some mothers and babies. There is nothing wrong with deciding to bottle feed. The biggest concern, however, is what to put in the baby's bottle. If you are a breastfeeding mother looking for a different feeding method, don't worry. There are plenty of safe and healthy options available. After reading this blog, you will be able to select one for your baby.
When not to breastfeed? Breastfeeding provides nutrition and protection against many diseases and strengthens the bond between the child and the mother. However, it is recommended not to breastfeed your infant, if:
● You have lactation problems, like; ➔ Inadequate production of breast milk ➔ Breast engorgement ➔ Sore nipples ➔ Inverted nipples ➔ Nipple infection ➔ Inflammation of breast (mastitis) ➔ Breast abscess
● You are infected with HIV, HTLV, or TB
● You are on some meds that may pass into your breast milk and harm the baby, e.g. anticonvulsants, psychotropics, or chemotherapeutic drugs.
● The baby has latching or feeding issues.
What are the alternatives to breastfeeding? Expressed milk If you can produce adequate amounts of breast milk but don't want to breastfeed directly, or your baby is struggling with latching and making breastfeeding difficult, you can bottle-feed the infant with your own expressed breast milk.
As breast milk is vital in the early months of the baby’s life, your expressed milk is always a better choice than artificial alternatives. Although not identical, the expressed breast milk offers similar benefits to the newborn as direct breastfeeding. You can use a manual or electric pump to express your milk and store it in the refrigerator for future use. Moreover, if you are a working woman, it also allows you to share feeding duties with your partner.
Donor milk If the mother's breast milk is not available, human donor milk is the recommended alternative. It should be preferred over the formula feed as it provides better protection against necrotizing enterocolitis. Like blood banks, there are milk banks where women with surplus supply donate their breast milk. These milk banks screen the donors and safely collect, process, handle and store the milk. Instead of obtaining donor milk from individuals (wet nurses) directly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends these sources as they ensure breast milk safety through advanced screening and pasteurizing processes. Contact your state's department of health to find these milk banks in your area. You can quickly get breast milk from there with the help of a doctor's prescription.
Formula feed If both the mother's breast milk and donor milk are not available, artificial formula feeds are recommended. They provide nutrients that are necessary for the average growth and development of the child. These include;
● Homemade formula feed - possible but not recommended Some may suggest making an infant formula feed at home as it is relatively easy. It commonly comprises nutritionally rich ingredients like raw cow milk, probiotics, whey, cream, gelatin, and healthy oils like cod liver oil, coconut oil and sunflower oil. However, like the FDA, health authorities forbid the use of homemade formula feed as it can cause serious health issues for your child.
The infant's nutritional requirements are precise, particularly in the first year of life. These nutritional requirements cannot be achieved in a homemade recipe as your formula feed may contain too much or too little amounts of certain ingredients. Plus, there is an additional risk of contamination. It is recommended you choose a commercial formula feed rather than making one yourself.
● Commercial formula feed These are safe alternatives to breast milk because the ingredients present in them specifically meet the infant’s nutritional requirements. FDA generally regulates the commercially available formula feeds.
Usually, they come in powdered or ready-to-feed liquid forms; however, there are multiple types of formula feeds available in the market. These differ in their composition and uses. You should consult a doctor before choosing a formula feed for your child.
Here are different types of commercial infant formulas:
Cow's milk protein-based formulas These are made with Cow's milk which has been altered in a way to resemble breast milk. They also contain lactose and other minerals. These are easier to digest, and most of the children are comfortable with these formula feeds.
Soy-based formulas In place of Cow's milk, they contain soy proteins. Lactose is also absent. Parents can use these if their baby is allergic to dairy-based formula feeds. Your doctor may recommend you to feed soy-based formulas to your child if your child is lactose intolerant or suffer from galactosemia.
Hypoallergenic formulas These are also known as protein hydrolysate formulas. The protein present in these formulas has been, entirely or partially, broken down (hydrolyzed) into smaller pieces, so it is easier to digest. As the name indicates, these commercial infant formulas are used when the baby is allergic to both Cow's milk and soy-based products.
Lactose-free formulas These are best for babies who have lactose intolerance and galactosemia.
Special formula feeds Special formula feeds have unique compositions to address specific health conditions. Do not use these to feed your baby unless recommended by a doctor.
Anti-reflux formula feeds Your general practitioner may recommend these formulas if your baby has a reflux problem, i.e. spit up milk back into the throat during or after the feed. These unique formulas are pre-thickened with rice starch to prevent the reflux of the feed.
Formula feed for premature and low-birth-weight neonates. This formula feed contains an extra amount of calories and minerals to meet the preterm and low-birth-weight neonates' energy and nutritional requirements.
The mom blogs may try to guilt new moms into thinking they must breastfeed their baby. Ultimately, it is a personal decision to make. As you can see, there are many options available that provide all the nutrients needed for a healthy baby. If you are a new mom and don’t think breastfeeding is for you, do your research, talk to your doctor and do what is best for you and your baby.
Disclaimer This article is intended for informational purposes only.
References When breastfeeding or feeding expressed milk is not recommended. [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/contraindication s-to-breastfeeding.html Villines Z. Breastfeeding vs. pumping: The pros and cons of each [Internet]. Medicalnewstoday.com. 2018. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322839 Arslanoglu S, Corpeleijn W, Moro G, Braegger C, Campoy C, Colomb V, Decsi T, Domellöf M, Fewtrell M, Hojsak I, Mihatsch W. Donor human milk for preterm infants: current evidence and research directions. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. 2013 Oct 1;57(4):535-42. Use of Donor Human Milk [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/science-research/pediatrics/use-donor-human-milk FDA Advises Parents and Caregivers to Not Make or Feed Homemade Infant [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/food/alerts-advisories-safety-information/fda-advises-parents-and-c aregivers-not-make-or-feed-homemade-infant-formula-infants O'Connor NR. Infant formula. American family physician. 2009 Apr 1;79(7):565-70.
Encyclopedia M, formulas I. Infant formulas: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Medlineplus.gov. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002447.htm Merritt RJ, Jenks BH. Safety of soy-based infant formulas containing isoflavones: the clinical evidence. The Journal of nutrition. 2004 May;134(5):1220S-4S.