Breast or Bottle Feeding?

Breast or Bottle Feeding?

For a normal, healthy baby, breastmilk has great advantages. It is ideally suited to a newborn baby, convenient to supply, comes at the right temperature in handy containers, and is already sterilized. It will alter its constituents according to the baby’s needs and growth, and provides protection against infection. Many mothers who bottle-feed have found that they are unable to breastfeed successfully. Mothers who have decided on the bottle should not consider themselves failures or bad mothers. Bottle-fed babies are usually just as healthy and happy, and for each mother it is important to do what suits her best. Formula feeds are usually based on modified cow’s milk with added carbohydrates and reduced amounts of protein and minerals such as sodium and potassium. There are also formulae available based on soya protein, which suits babies who may be allergic to cow’s milk.

Modern formula milks have practically all the right constituents for a baby’s requirements, provided they are made up according to the instructions on the packet. They also have added vitamins, so vitamin drops are not required. It is usually only necessary to mix the right number of scoops of powder (measured as ‘level’ or flat by removing the excess milk with the back of a knife) with the correct amount of cooled, boiled water; the milk is then ready to drink. These instructions are most important. If a baby is given too much powder in the feed, the baby will become more thirsty and may be overloaded with minerals, such as sodium; if too little powder is given he or she will still be hungry.

Bottle-feeding must be done under scrupulously hygienic conditions. It is necessary to use sterilized bottles, teats and measuring utensils, because it is important not to introduce germs into the baby’s gut. There are sterilizing solutions available, or equipment may be boiled and stored in a sterile container. It is usually convenient to make up enough formula for several feeds and store the excess in a fridge (although not for longer than 24 hours). The required amount can then be warmed to the correct temperature (a little dropped onto the back of the hand can be used to determine wether it is too hot or too cold). After feeding all the equipment, bottles and teats need to be cleaned thoroughly before they can be sterilized.