Over the years there have been several debates and opinions shared on bottle-feeding versus breastfeeding. Mothers and medical professionals have debated which one is superior. Which one provides better nutrition or bonding. There have even been popular terms created to aid in the debate such as ‘breast is best’ and ‘fed is best’. There are a multitude of debates on social media about which is better. The answer is much more complicated than just which one is better. Each mother, baby, delivery, medical circumstances, work requirements, family situation, and availability is unique. Every family has different circumstances and conditions that will affect whether they choose to bottle-feed or breastfeed. There are plenty of resources for mothers who are struggling with the decision. You can discuss these concerns with your medical provider or a lactation consultant but ultimately the decision is yours to make. It is a personal decision and it may be different for each child you have.
One of the many benefits of breastfeeding that is often discussed is bonding. There have been some clinical studies done to show that breastfeeding helps mother and child bond. The closeness and skin-to-skin contact aid in releasing oxytocin which is a hormone that can increase bonding between two people. But what about those mothers and babies who cannot breastfeed due to medical conditions or other circumstances out of their control. Do these mothers and children have less of a bond than breastfeeding mothers and children? Some medical professionals and mothers are saying no. You are able to bond with your child even with bottle feeding.
A study published in BMC Pregnancy Childbirth journal in 2019 concludes that mother and baby bonding is not associated with a certain method of feeding. The study’s main contributors were Dr. Ilana Hairston and Dr. Jonathan Handelzalts. They wanted to look further into this topic because breastfeeding is promoted as aiding in bonding between mother and child but there have only been a handful of studies to test this claim. The aim of their study was to test if there truly is a link between breastfeeding and bonding and if breastfeeding combats the negative effects that breastfeeding causes on mood and sleep disruptions.
They conducted surveys on 271 mothers. From the answers collected, they concluded that breastfeeding was not linked with the quality of mother-baby bonding and it did not combat the negative effects on mood and sleep disruption. They agree that breastfeeding may be beneficial for health reasons but it cannot be concluded that it helps a mother and baby bond more than bottle-feeding (Hairston et al, 2019).
Some mothers argue that bottle-feeding can be just as bonding as breastfeeding. Bottle feeding allows families to be able to track how much the baby is consuming. It allows mothers to have a break because others are able to feed the baby. Bottle feeding can include close contact and skin-to-skin contact between the person who is feeding and the baby.
In conclusion, the decision to breastfeed or bottle-feed is personal and could be different for each child that a family has. There are many factors that need to be considered when making the decision of how you are going to feed your baby. There are many resources available to help you make the decision that is best for your family.
Hairston, I.S., Handelzalts, J.E., Lehman-Inbar, T. et al. Mother-infant bonding is not associated with feeding type: a community study sample. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 19, 125 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2264-0