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Breastfeeding vs. Formula: What's Best for Babies?

The Moms Council takes on the debate over whether feeding your baby formula could contribute to childhood obesity.

is made of of moms throughout the community from all different walks of life. Each week, the moms tackle a different question posed by readers of Tewksbury Patch on issues of life, family and motherhood.

This week, the Moms Council takes on the very personal, and sometimes controversial, issue of breast feeding vs. formula. the topic has been making headlines in the two weeks since First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged women to breast feed, if possible, as a means of combating childhood obesity.

Here's what the Moms had to say on the topic.

The Question:

Dear Moms,

I'm eight months pregnant. There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about breast feeding vs. formula and about how
bottle feeding with formula can contribute to childhood obesity. Which is better for my baby and is their really a big problem with formula?

The Moms Responses:

Linda Rowe: Breast feeding vs. formula is a personal decision only mom can make. I suggest talking to your doctor and do alot of reading on the subject. There are  advantages and disadvantages of both, and decide which  is best for you. There is no right or  wrong answer....your baby's nutritional needs will be met no matter which way you choose. There are dozens of factors that contribute to childhood obesity.  If your baby is becoming overweight, your pediatrician can give you tips on what to do. Twenty years ago hospitals would send home cases and cases of formula to help mom save money at the store,  which is not happening any more.

Sue Panilaitis: My thoughts (based on a bit of research):

The current expert opinion is that obesity caused by formula feeding is the result of overfeeding infants.  While breast fed babies are required to work for their food and have time to read hunger cues, formula fed infants take in food faster.  Couple that with a breast feeding mother’s perspective that her child will always get enough while a formula feeding mom is often told to measure ounces eaten and often coax a baby to finish a bottle.  It appears that if you imitate breast feeding practices, you can limit any chances of obesity later in life (which also requires good nutritional practices for your child as they age).

Kendra McCauley: I've never believed any of that. I have formula-fed 4 boys and haven't had any issues with weight because of it. I truly believe its all the other junk we allow our kids to eat later on that leads to childhood obesity.

Maureen Castiglione: While there are definite benefits to breast feeding your baby, you will not harm your child if you use formula instead.  There are so many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, including genetic and environmental, that you can't single out one thing as "good or bad."  Both my kids were formula babies, and have no weight issues.

Lisa Broderick: I agree with Maureen, in that there is much more beyond formula feeding that contributes to childhood obesity.  Yes, breastfeeding is definitely best and ideal for your child, but ultimately you need to do what works for both of you. Once they are eating solid food is the time to start thinking about and working on a healthy well-rounded diet and exercise for your child, to avoid obesity issues.  My two kids had a combination of breast feeding and formula feeding and do not have weight issues.  Good Luck!

Maryann Fezzuoglio-Frisella: There have been so many studies done on this..which is best and which is not the best when it comes to this issue, and they will always change. I find that from personal experience, I have 2 children each one did their own thing. You could ask your pediatrician which they would recommend.  Also, from personal experience please stay away from the groups that pressure you to do one over the other.  In no time at all they will have you believing your an unfit mother. I do believe to give your child your milk is very healthy, but i also believe formula has so much nutrition as well. Good luck.

Lisa Spinelli-White: While a mother's milk is obviously almost always the healthier and most natural option, there are a multitude of reasons why a mother can't or the baby can't or won't breastfeed. It is assuredly nothing anyone has to ever feel guilty about one way or the other. For health reasons, doctors do say to at least try breastfeeding for the first three months if you can. Again, never feel guilty if you can't, it's incredibly time-consuming and can be quite incredibly painful at times.

I think the issue with obesity and formula is because you can not overfeed a baby while breastfeeding (at least doctors say that) but formula-fed babies can be overfed. The way formula-fed babies are overfed is that parents push the baby to finish off the bottle even if the baby is full. Maybe the parents don't know the baby is full or maybe they're trying to stuff them up on purpose (sometimes at night parents do this to keep the baby asleep longer). Either way, the point is if you go the formula-route, make sure you look for cues that the baby is full, although I highly doubt that the baby will be morbidly obese even if you make him/her finish off a bottle once in a while when they're full. Good luck! Breastfeeding was the hardest thing I have ever done, that includes labor.

Heidi DeSisto March 03, 2011 at 02:04 AM
It's a personal choice. I did not breastfeed any of my 3 kids and my kids are healthy. Breastfeeding was not for me. Make your own choice and don't let anyone tell y ou what to do. Good luck.

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