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Weighing the Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding

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Updated October 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

The choice to breastfeed your baby is a personal one. There are so many wonderful reasons to breastfeed your baby, but there are some disadvantages to nursing, too. Knowing the pros and cons of breastfeeding can help you decide what is right for you and your family.

The Positives of Breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding is natural: Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby. Your body was created as the ideal way to supply your child with the perfect source of nutrition.

  • Breast milk is the healthiest food for your child: Breastfeeding provides your baby with a variety of health and developmental benefits. The natural ingredients found in breast milk help protect your baby from illness and disease during infancy and continue to provide your child with better health as he or she grows.

  • Nursing is good for you: Breastfeeding provides health benefits for moms, too. Women who breastfeed tend to recover from childbirth faster than women who choose not to nurse their babies. Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of ovarian and breast cancer, and it could decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis and obesity as you age.

  • Breast milk tastes good: Breast milk tastes better than formula.

  • Breast milk is easy to digest: Breast milk is specifically produced for your baby. It is easier to digest than formula and may help prevent gas and colic. A breastfed baby’s bowel movements have a less offensive smell and are not as irritating to his or her skin. Breastfed babies do not usually get diarrhea or constipation, and they have diaper rash less often than formula-fed infants.

  • Breastfeeding is convenient: Your breasts are the perfect way to supply your baby with the optimal nutrition at the perfect temperature. You won't have to worry about preparing and heating formula, and there will not be any bottles to clean up after feedings.

  • It's economical: Breastfeeding can save you thousands of dollars. If you nurse your baby, you will not need to buy formula, bottles and supplies. Breastfeeding also keeps your child healthier, so it can reduce medical costs as your child grows.

  • Breastfeeding is comforting: A scared, injured or sick child can be more easily comforted by breastfeeding.

  • Night feedings are faster and easier: You do not have to make bottles in the middle of the night.

  • It's relaxing: During breastfeeding your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone that promotes relaxation. Breastfeeding also provides you with time each day to take a break, sit down with your feet up and spend quality time with your baby.

  • Breastfeeding delays the return of your period: Breastfeeding can prevent your period from returning for six months or even longer. Menstruation usually returns approximately one month after you stop breastfeeding exclusively.

  • You can pump: Pumping your breast milk can give you some freedom. It can make it easier for you to spend time away from your baby, allow you to continue to provide breast milk to your baby if you return to work and give your partner the ability to participate with feedings.

The Negatives of Breastfeeding:

  • You will have less freedom: When you breastfeed, you are always on call. You and your breasts are needed for every feeding, day and night. This can be very exhausting, especially during the first few months when you will be nursing your baby every two to three hours around the clock.

  • Breastfeeding can be painful: You may have to deal with some uncomfortable or even painful common problems of breastfeeding, such as mastitis, engorgement, plugged ducts and sore nipples.

  • Your partner can't breastfeed: Your partner might want to feed the baby and may feel left out of the breastfeeding relationship.

  • It can be stressful if you are very modest: You may feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about breastfeeding around others or in public. This could make it difficult to go out with your baby. You might end up staying home most of the time and feeling trapped or lonely.

  • Breastfeeding can be difficult to get started: Not all babies latch on immediately and breastfeed well. Breastfeeding might be harder than you think, and you may end up feeling disappointed or discouraged. For some, breastfeeding is a learning process.

  • You have to make good lifestyle choices: You have to think about your diet and lifestyle choices when you breastfeed. Your baby may have a reaction to different foods in your diet. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can be harmful to your baby and should be avoided. Stress and other factors can decrease your breast milk supply.
Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession. Mosby. Philadelphia. 1999.

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