Karabo Mokoena
Content producer
4 minute read
11 Mar 2019
2:04 pm

Breastfeeding vs formula feeding: Which is better?

Karabo Mokoena

Breast milk has some amazing benefits including unblocking the nose, soothing skin irritation and alleviating teething.

Picture: iStock

I spent the most beautiful weekend in Sun City with my husband and a couple of our friends, but the harsh reality of breast feeding quickly set in, and the rest of my weekend was characterised by discomfort and excruciating pain.

My baby is one year and five months old, and I am pushing to breast feed her until she is two, which is the recommended age for weaning off the breast.

The World Health Organisation recommends that children exclusively breast feed until six months, concurrently with food until the age of two. Unfortunately for me, I forgot to take my breast pump with me, and I would not be breastfeeding my little one for two days.

Breast engorgement is one of the biggest challenges that breastfeeding mothers go through, and what I experienced this past weekend in Sun City was hard. When you produce milk and there is no outlet, your breasts become overfilled.

You subsequently experience painful lumps in your breasts, and if anyone dares to touch you in that state, they will soon regret it. The extent of swelling that one experiences is extremely uncomfortable, particularly around the armpit area. That’s not even the worst part.

Picture: iStock

Engorgement can easily lead to mastitis, which Mayo Clinic describes as “an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. “The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. You might also have a fever and chills.”

I then questioned myself as a mom and blogger: am I really being honest with expecting moms when I encourage them to exclusively breastfeed their newborns? I am also sure that moms did not warn me about any of this.

I have often heard how easy moms encourage each other to breastfeed when one is expecting, without being brutally honest about how challenging the process is. I have also come to notice how easily formula milk-feeding moms are criticised.

Formula milk critics usually mention the inconvenience of it with regards to night feeds, packing supplies when the family goes out for a trip, and the subsequent preparation. The other criticism is the nutrient-deprivation little ones experience, particularly with regards to the baby’s health and their overall immunity.

The cost element also comes into play, and it’s true that formula milk is expensive. On the flip side is the absolute joy of not getting side-eyed by judgmental people when breast feeding in public, or having to look out for a private space to do that, just to avoid people feeling uncomfortable when you pop a boob to feed your baby.

One big advantage I absolutely appreciate with bottle feeding is the idea that both parents can participate in the process, whereas breastfed babies are stuck with mom and dads can only help to burp the baby.

Picture: iStock

Unfortunately, some women are forced into formula feeding their babies because of low milk supply, infections on the nipple, mastitis, and failure to establish a breast feeding relationship with the baby due to a poor latch or other lactation problems.

I often talk to mothers that are heartbroken that they were deprived of the opportunity to breast feed because this is often described as a beautiful bond between mother and child. Some people usually recommend a lactation consultant who is employed to help new moms with breast feeding problems they might be experiencing.

The reality here is that the consultant’s service is not free, and such professionals would usually tell moms to drink lots of liquids, mostly tea, or eat lactation cookies.

Breast milk has some amazing benefits including unblocking the nose, soothing skin irritation, alleviating teething and circumcision-related pain and helping with nappy rash. There are also many sacrifices a mom has to make for the sake of keeping healthy like watching her diet and alcohol intake.

I am a firm believer in doing what one feels is right for their baby, for as long as it is backed up by good reasoning and education. And more often than not, mothers are forced into making on-the-spot decisions, and later learning that they actually have options.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.