Having a baby is perhaps one of the most significant moments in a person's life (at least it should be). Because of this, it is often fraught with anxieties and challenges, especially for first time parents.

In addition to the seemingly endless number of worries and concerns, there are a multitude of decisions to make, including whether to breast feed or bottle feed your baby.

Breast Feed or Bottle Feed

This can be a difficult decision for some parents to make. While the choice ultimately lies with the mother, there is a strong body of evidence that indicates that breast feeding has numerous health advantages, including the strengthening baby's immune system, preventing allergies, reducing the risk for SIDS, and maybe even helping their cognitive development.

Despite the, certain circumstances may dictate which method is more desirable or, for that matter, even possible.

Given the choice, however, conventional wisdom indicates that breast feeding is better than bottle feeding. In support of this idea, a new article published in the Guardian has found that bottle fed babies may be at greater risk for adult obesity and by extension, heart disease.

Long-Term Consequences of Over-feeding

The problem stems from being overfed as a baby. In fact, according the article, at least 20% of adult obesity can be traced back to this. While it is in no way a guarantee that bottles lead to over-consumption, it is generally the case that breast fed babies tend to limit their intake of milk because they have to work harder to get their meal.

Bottle fed babies, on the other hand, tend to swallow whatever they are given and will often accept more food if it is offered to them. When these offerings include rich, high fat foods, it increases their chances of becoming obese.

With this in mind, experts indicate that the traditional ideal of a plump and chubby baby may be an outdated concept, and small babies should not always be given extra food so that they can "catch-up."

Scientific Evidence

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition lends support to this line of thinking, whereby researchers observed that excessive amounts of nutrition early in life are associated with being overweight later in life.

The data is the result of a follow-up study looking at children involved in two previous studies initiated in the 1990s. Some of the newborns were given enriched baby milk that is generally reserved for premature babies while the others (control) were given regular formula.

Those babies that received the additional nutrition had achieved a fat mass that was 22% to 38% higher than those given standard formula by the age of 5 to 8 years, a situation that is known to predispose individuals to becoming overweight as adults.

The take home message for parents of newborns is to understand that there is such a thing as an overfed baby. This message also supports breastfeeding, which generally discourages over-consumption.

What You Can Do

It goes without saying that breastfeeding is not always an option for every mother, and in many instances, breastfeeding can be an overwhelming challenge. However, if you are expecting a child or are a new mother, here are some things to consider.

1. A Healthy Option

Most health experts agree that breastfeeding is the best option for feeding your newborn. Not only is it good your baby, but there are tangible benefits for moms, as well.

2. Easier for Dads to Be Involved

Breastfeeding alleviates a father's need to clean bottles or prepare formula. In fact, it pretty much absolves him of any responsibilities, though it is important for men to always be practically and emotionally supportive during what can be a challenging time. This will help not only the mother and child, but the father, as well.

3. Bonding With Your Baby

Most mothers indicate that breastfeeding their babies is an incredibly warm and special time with their baby, establishing a special bond between mother and child.

4. Practicality

From a practical perspective, breastfeeding is economical, and you don't need to clean or sterilize baby bottles or purchase formula. Babies can be breast fed virtually anywhere and at any time without the hassles of food preparation.

5. The Green Option

For those concerned about the planet, breastfeeding leaves virtually no carbon footprint in terms of waste of pollution.

There are numerous resources to help new mothers in regards to breastfeeding. If you have questions or concerns, speak with your pediatrician or primary care doctor. For more information, the following websites offer loads of information or advice:

  • Women's' Health — a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
     
  • La Leche League — offers mother-to-mother support, encouragement, and education.
     
  • Baby Center — provides a wealth of information not only breastfeeding, but almost every topic concerning parenthood.
     
  • Breastfeeding.com — the name pretty much says it all.

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