Breast milk vs. formula: What's best?

More than 600 hospitals across the country have joined the movement called "Ban the Bags," putting a stop to infant formula in take-home diaper bags for new moms.  We look into what is behind the push to breastfeed and the comparison between breast milk and formula.

Hailey Cradure just welcomed Brookelyn into the world, baby sister to big brother, Heath - who is enjoying the new addition!

With both pregnancies, Hailey was determined to breast feed, but things did not go as planned with Heath.  "I was extremely devastated," she said, "I felt like as a mother it was something that I needed to know how to do because it was best for my baby."

Failure to latch on is one of the main reasons new moms meet lactation consultant, Casey Fontenot, who works with The Pediatric Center in Sulphur.  Fontenot is a mother herself, that touts the benefits of breast milk.  "It helps fight infection, you have a lower risk for asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control says breast fed babies are 250% less likely to be hospitalized with severe respiratory infections, 56% less likely to suffer from SIDS and 32% less likely to be obese later in life.  Fontenot says the benefits extend for moms that breast feed.  "You have a quicker weight loss after pregnancy, you have a decreased risk for osteoporosis, ovarian and breast cancer," she said.

Some hospitals in major U.S. cities are banning formula altogether, sending a strong message to new moms that breast milk is the best milk.  "Even if breast feeding was going well at the hospital, once they're at home without that support, they have that formula sitting in that bag if times get tough," said Fontenot.

But is formula bad?  The FDA requires they contain vitamins and minerals, but you will not get the immunity-boosting elements of breast milk. Plus formula carries a price tag, whereas breast milk is free.

Hailey says she is glad she gave breastfeeding another try and encourages moms who have struggled before not to give up.  "Watching her look up with her eyes wide open and watching me and just knowing that I'm doing the best thing for my child is very good," she said.

The International Formula Council warns that if formula is banned in hospitals, some mothers will resort to other methods of feeding their newborns that will not provide nutrition and can put their health at risk.

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