Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What's the best way to wean a baby?

Signs to Wean Your Baby

First be sure to check with your child's pediatrician before weaning off formula or weaning breastfeeding.

The following are signs it's time for weaning a baby:

  • The baby wants to breastfeed or drink formula often.
  • The baby has doubled his birth weight.
  • The baby seems interested in solid food you're eating.
  • The baby mouths his hands and toys.
  • The baby opens his mouth when he sees others eating.
  • The baby can sit without support.
  • The baby can hold his head upright and steady (this shows swallowing muscles are strong).

Breastfeeding facts

  • The ability of the breasts to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding.
  • Infants triple their total body weight during their first year of life.
  • The immunity factors in breast milk can help the baby to fight off infections.
  • Breast milk contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes which aid the baby's digestion.
  • Breast milk is the ideal form of nutrition for infants.
  • Breastfeeding mothers return to their prepregnancy weight faster than those who do not breastfeed.
  • Breastfeeding reduces mothers' risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Many problems associated with breastfeeding can be overcome.

Many important concerns arises upon confirmation of pregnancy. Certainly one of the important ones is "How will we feed our baby?" In this article, we will review advantages and disadvantages of breast and formula feeding and helpful concepts in preparation for breastfeeding. This article is intended to help parents feel comfortable in making an educated decision about feeding their child based on scientific information.

When should we decide about breastfeeding?

Generally, it is a good idea to meet with the baby's doctor prior to the birth in order for all to get to know each other in a controlled, non-rushed, quiet environment. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss your concerns and wishes about feeding your baby. One important reason to have the decision to breastfeed made before the delivery is that it can be very difficult or even impossible to start using formula and then later try to switch to breastfeeding. This is because the ability of the breasts to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding.

Why is the choice so important?

During your baby's first year of life, he/she will more than triple his/her total body weight, and the vast majority of this weight gain will come from the milk that he/she drinks. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants. This includes premature and sick newborns, with rare exceptions. Of course, breast milk would appear to be the most ideal food for your newborn. It is the food least likely to cause allergic reactions, it is inexpensive, it is readily available at any hour of the day or night; babies accept the taste readily; and the immunity factors in breast milk can help the baby fight off some infections.

Although breast milk is the ideal food for human infants, because of medical or other reasons, some women opt for formula feeding. Infant formulas have been developed to artificially duplicate human milk, although no formulas have been developed that are an exact replacement for human milk.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016

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