Pages Menu

Column originally published Nov 24, 2015

Breastfeeding Is Best For Babies

Question: I am expecting our first baby. We are really excited, but I am also terrified because I don’t know whether I should, or can, breastfeed our baby. My older sister has a three month-old girl. This baby has been on formula since birth. At first, she was fine; but in the last two months, she has been very fussy, crying, and spitting up constantly. They have changed the formula several times, with little success. Although the baby is gaining weight, she is not a happy one. I don’t want to hold her just in case if she spits up on me. I have heard good things about breastfeeding; several of my girlfriends are nursing their babies. I am not sure that I can do it; none of our relatives have nursed their babies. Please give me some advice.


I can understand your dilemma. Many mothers struggle with this decision, and it is not an easy one. Let me give you some background knowledge so that you can be better informed to make this decision for yourself and for your baby.

Medical science has made tremendous progress since the 20th century. Mothers used to die at childbirth; it is also not uncommon for families to lose some of their children within days to weeks after birth. Chinese did not celebrate the birth of a child until she is one month old.

These all changed because we are better able to monitor mother’s health during pregnancy. If there is any difficulty during labour, doctors can intervene immediately. With better newborn care and routine vaccination, babies are not dying from infections. Doctors and society have trusted medical science because of these remarkable improvements.

Along the way, formulas were manufactured from cows milk. Mothers have choices, they can nurse their babies or give them formula. Breastfed babies usually have to be nursed more often than formula-fed babies, and mothers are the only ones who can nurse their babies. Doctors also promoted formulas because they thought these were more scientific. Some parents chose formula feeding as a status symbol, they could afford to buy formula. Little did they know it was probably their worst decision.

Over time, many paediatricians like myself started to encounter problems with formula-fed babies. Spitting, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, cranky, colicky, on and on. Some babies have more problems than others. Switching formulas doesn’t always help. Some babies end up on soy formula or very expensive hypo-allergenic formulas. Very few breastfed babies have similar problems.

Fortunately, babies who developed serious problems with formula are still a minority. As a result, most expectant mothers have never heard of this problem, until they encounter it with their own baby. By that time, it is too late. It is not possible to begin breastfeeding several weeks after delivery. You are fortunate that your sister is having problem with her daughter, so you can start considering your options before it is too late.

Because of my experience with many babies who got into trouble with formula, I would suggest that you seriously consider breastfeeding your baby. Almost all mothers can do that. Although breastfeeding is natural, both mother and baby have to learn at the beginning.

Many hospitals are very supportive of breastfeeding moms right after birth, putting babies on mother’s tummy for skin-to-skin contact, and nursing within an hour. Lactation consultants are available in many hospitals and in the community. La Leche League and public health nurses are additional supports that you can contact if you need.

In the meantime, you may want to spend more time with your friends who are nursing their babies; observe how they bond while breastfeeding. They can become your role model and offer your tips and support.