When it comes to feeding their newborn babies, new moms are increasingly trading in the breast for the bottle, a new University of British Columbia study has found.
According to researchers, moms are choosing to use expressed breast milk (either pumped or expressed by hand) rather than having their kids feed directly from the breast.
And moms who choose to feed expressed breast milk are more likely to transition their babies to infant formula feed earlier than moms who breastfeed. It’s a trend, researchers say, which could impact the health of the next generation.
“Breastfeeding is the unequalled method for feeding infants,” says Marie Tarrant, director of nursing at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “It has been previously determined that breastfeeding is important for nutrition, immunology, growth and development of infants and toddlers. Anything that contributes to shortening the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding is a concern.”
The study involved looking at the feeding practices of more than 2,000 mothers.
Tarrant believes there may be a reason for the shift, including lack of education and support.
“New mothers may believe there is no difference between expressed breast milk feeding and direct feeding at the breast,” she says. “Although expressed breast milk feeding provides greater benefits than infant formula, bottle feeding may increase the risk of respiratory issues, asthma, rapid weight gain and oral diseases.”
Bottled expressed milk vs breastfeeding
According to BabyCentre, expressed breast milk is a way of taking milk from the breast without the baby needing to suckle. This can be done through pumping either electronically or manually. The milk can also be stored in either a fridge or freezer for later use.
Mothers may decide to feed expressed milk if the baby was premature and is unable to latch on to the breast, or because other problems or illnesses exist that make breastfeeding difficult for mother and/or baby.
The nutritional value of expressed milk is comparable to breast milk, BabyCentre says. However, there are things to consider.
The act of breastfeeding provides a closeness and comfort and strengthens the bond between mom and baby, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.
Other downsides of using expressed milk come down to convenience and may include longer preparation time and carrying the extra cargo of a breast pump.
But considering mothers who use expressed milk are moving to formula faster, doctors say babies may be missing out on important nutrients and antibodies.
Breastfeeding is widely believed to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), help babies build up an immune system and more.
It’s even linked to better heart health for babies when they reach adulthood, a 2013 Northwestern University study found.
Breastfeeding has benefits for mama, too.
For example, researchers at the Oxford University say that breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
However, despite previous claims, scientists at King’s College London concluded there was no direct link between breastfeeding and protection against eczema for babies. In fact, children who were exclusively breastfed for four months or longer were just as likely to develop eczema as children who stopped breastfeeding earlier.
Issues with breastfeeding
With less and less available help and resources like lactation support services, new moms are finding it difficult to breastfeed.
Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that first-time moms who report early concerns or problems with breastfeeding are almost 10 times more likely to abandon the practice within two months.
Among the most common concerns were babies not being able to latch on to the breast (52 per cent), pain when breastfeeding (44 per cent) and issues with milk quantity (40 per cent).
The results of the study show that more help and education and peer support is needed for mothers, researchers say.