Alternatives to Breastfeeding for Newborns [A Comprehensive Guide]
Many misconceptions exist when it comes to breastfeeding. While some say newborns should only be fed breast milk no matter what, others insist on not giving breastmilk. It is hard to find common ground on this topic because the answer varies depending on mothers, babies, and their conditions.
Surely breastfeeding is encouraged, although that is not the solution for every mother. There are cases where an alternative to breastfeeding is necessary. Sometimes mothers are incapable of feeding breastmilk even if they want to.
Importance of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is indeed important for both mother and baby. It is common knowledge we all know. However, what many of us don’t know is specifically how breastfeeding can be beneficial. So, here is how.
Breast Milk is Natural and Free
The best thing about breastmilk is that it is all-natural, particularly produced for the baby, and it is totally free. Formulas can cost over a thousand dollars per year. One formula might be better than the other, yet they are not sufficient compared to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has a wide range of benefits, from providing the baby with necessary nutrients to the overall development of a child.
Human Milk is the Best for Newborns
The milk of the mother is definitely the best for the baby. It is full of nutrients necessary for a newborn. Breastmilk can suffice for an infant for the first six months of their lives. They will not need anything else for development or growth. Nonetheless, there have been numerous research where it has been proven that human milk has the most nutrients compared to other species.
Breastfeeding Improves Bond
Breastfeeding improves the bond between mother and child. When a mother breastfeeds her baby and touches them, both get a sense of satisfaction. Moreover, this activity stimulates the release of two hormones. These hormones are prolactin and oxytocin. Oxytocin, in particular, is the hormone that gets released when people are in love.
Breast Milk Improves Immune System
Breastmilk carries antibodies from the mother to the baby. These antibodies protect the infant from various diseases, germs, or infections. Breast Milk can prevent influenza, pneumonia, botulism, ear infection, etc. The cholesterol of the milk helps in preventing heart diseases. Moreover, breast milk contains a high level of protein which fights against diarrhea.
It helps with Intestinal Development
It takes time for newborns to develop the immune system. Also, their gastrointestinal system stays unprotected. Bacteria and viruses can pass through their intestinal layer and cause issues. The cholesterol and proteins of breastmilk help in intestinal development. For instance, a particular protein can close up the intestinal lining, which prevents bacteria and viruses from passing through.
Risk of Asthma Decreases with Breastfeeding
Research suggests that breastfeeding during the first six months of newborns can drastically decrease the risk of developing asthma. Furthermore, fifty percent of children have better immunity to asthma compared to those who were never breastfed. All this is due to the fact that breastfeeding is important for newborns and their immune systems.
Breastfeeding Improves Dental Health
Breastfeeding can be beneficial for dental health too. Babies who get breastfed tend to drink a lot faster compared to those who consume formula or bottled milk. Having milk from a bottle can elongate the feeding time, resulting in the sugar and acids staying in the mouth for longer. This can cause damage to dental health. Moreover, the bottle itself can cause issues like malocclusion or misalignment of teeth.
Why Breastfeeding Alternatives Can Be Necessary
Undoubtedly, breastfeeding is the best way to feed newborns up to at least six months of age. Unfortunately, breastfeeding might not be possible at all times. For various complications, babies need an alternative to breastfeeding. In most cases, newborns need to be fed infant formulas such as Enfamil Infant or Gentlease.
Like any other organs in the body, breasts are also a bit unpredictable. Depending on the overall physical and emotional health, lactation can vary. While for some mothers, lactation is not hard at all, others face a lot of hurdles.
Lactation complications for new mothers can include physical discomfort while they are nursing or pumping, when they cannot supply or pump enough milk, the baby is not satisfied, or sometimes when babies get accustomed to normal food and stop getting breastfed.
A mother’s mental or emotional state can reflect on breastfeeding. Sometimes mothers don’t like breastfeeding, which can be caused by mental distress or abuse too. Then again, sometimes, mothers have to go back to work or school or have to put babies in infant care so that they might not be capable of breastfeeding.
Oftentimes what prevents mothers from breastfeeding their babies can be related to medical issues. It can be regarding either the mother or child or both. When babies are kept in the NICU, mothers cannot breastfeed them. Sometimes giving formula can help with the weight gain of the baby for which formula is needed.
Apart from babies’ condition, mothers’ breast augmentation, breast hypoplasia, glandular dysfunction, birth control consumption, or other prescribed medicines can be a cause for not breastfeeding.
For the above reasons, the alternative of breastfeeding is required. There are several solutions for breastfeeding alternatives. Depending on the mother and the baby, one needs to choose a suitable alternative. However, you can always ask your newborn’s Neonatologists about the best alternative for the baby.
Pumping Breast Milk
If a mother is incapable of breastfeeding for any reason, they should at least try to provide breast milk to their children for optimum health benefits. Pumping is quite common, so there is no need to worry if one cannot breastfeed. Turns out that eighty-five percent of mothers have to pump breastmilk at some point.
Mothers can use an electric or manual pump to pump out their breast milk and store them. This is a very useful and convenient method as working mothers can ensure their baby is getting breastmilk in their absence or carry bottles when they are outdoors if they are not comfortable with breastfeeding in public.
Getting Breast Milk From Other Mothers
Some lactating mothers consider donating breastmilk which you can get mostly at the hospital. Most of the breast milk gets sent to the milk bank. Babies who are in a dire situation and need breastmilk get theirs from the milk bank. It can be hard to get the milk otherwise. Most of the time, a doctor prescribes breastmilk, and one can get breast milk from the bank. In a milk bank, they follow processing protocols that ensure the milk is in good condition.
In some instances, people find lactating mothers on their own accord to get breastmilk. They can be among friends or families. The lactating mother can agree to share their breastmilk or nurse the baby.
Keep in mind that a few risks are involved in the breast milk sharing process if the breast milk-providing woman has some infection that can be passed down to the baby who is consuming the milk. Then again, milk could be contaminated, storing or handling procedures might not be right, and many other issues may arise.
Purchasing Breast Milk
Nowadays, everything is available to buy online. You can find breast milk too. This can be an option, but you never know about its legitimacy. You might not know if breast milk is a hundred percent pure breastmilk or if it will be harmful to the baby. You might also not know about any diseases or drugs taken by lactating women.
Breast Milk Alternative – Formula
Sometimes it is necessary for babies to have an alternative to milk. It could be due to their mother’s condition or to the growth of the baby. Plenty of commercial formulas are available in the market. Parents often get overwhelmed by the variety of options. Many experts say there is not much difference in infant formulas; most variations are simply a part of marketing strategy.
However, there are a few types of formula available that parents should know about before opting for infant formula as an alternative to breastmilk.
- The closest to human breast milk is cow milk formula. They are also packed with nutrients needed for newborns.
- Alternative to cow milk formula can be a soy-based formula. It is more suitable for babies who find it difficult to digest dairy-based formula.
- Hydrolyzed formulas are another common formula alternative to breastmilk. As we already know, breast milk contains proteins. In hydrolyzed formulas, the proteins are broken down into smaller proteins which is much more suitable for infants who struggle to process food.
- The homemade formula is another option. It is presumed to be good as all-natural ingredients are used. However, it can be harmful to the baby. You do not know what ingredients or nutrients are needed in a formula and in what ratio. The balance of water, protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and fats can be off as no regulation and testing are made on homemade formulas.
Commercial formulas are regulated and have been thoroughly tested. There are also no issues with pasteurization in commercial formulas.
Different Types of Infant Feeding
As there is no right and wrong in breastfeeding and alternate feeding, there is also no fixed rule in feeding type. Successful feeding or necessary feeding type can vary depending on the baby’s health condition.
- Successful feeding can be a combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding for some babies.
- Sometimes, it is best when the baby is fed with pumped breastmilk. Breastfeeding might not always be the best, especially when the baby cannot draw sufficient breast milk.
- In many cases, mothers breastfeed while they are with the baby but pump milk for when they are at work or school or when the baby is in daycare.
- Exclusively feeding formula can also be a successful feeding method for some babies. For various complications, babies might need only formula, which is totally fine.
There is no need to overstress yourself as a mother if you cannot breastfeed your baby. There are plenty of good alternatives for breastmilk. However, if you are thinking about not having a good mother-child bond due to the absence of breastfeeding, make sure to spend a lot of time with your baby. Hold them close, have skin-to-skin time, talk to them, sing to them – these are incredible ways to make the bond stronger.
This is a partnered post.