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Breast, Bottle, or Both?

Breast Benefits: You've heard it before -- breast is best. "Breastfeeding protects your baby from illness and infection, enhances brain development, and lowers the risk of developing asthma and diabetes," says Marianne Neifert, M.D., a Denver pediatrician and the author of Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding. Moms benefit too: Nursing lowers your risk of breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly osteoporosis. It also burns calories (about 500 a day), can be convenient (no bottles to wash or formula to mix), and is cheap (you only need a few nursing bras and, usually, a breast pump). If you pump breast milk, someone else can feed it to your baby by bottle. Drawbacks: It's all you, all the time: Nursing is time-consuming (a newborn can feed every two or three hours all day and night), and you need to pump even if Dad gives the baby a bottle of breast milk. "Nursing can cause great fatigue," says Will Wilkoff, M.D., a pediatrician in Brunswick, Maine, and author of The Maternity Leave Breastfeeding Plan. "In fact, it's a bigger energy drain on your body than pregnancy." Nursing can make some women self-conscious, and the learning curve can be steep. Sore nipples, plugged milk ducts, mastitis (a breast inflammation), and engorgement can be painful side effects. Scheduling can be a challenge, especially for working moms -- some jobs may not allow for multiple pumping breaks. How I decided: "I breastfed my baby because it was the easiest method for me. When my son woke up at night, the milk was set to go -- it was already mixed and warmed." -- Misty Zerkel, Lyons, OR "I worried that breastfeeding would be embarrassing and that my husband might get grossed out. But even after soreness and mastitis, it still was the best choice -- and my husband is more amazed by my body than ever!" -- Zoe Albright, Lee's Summit, MO