Your frequent questions answered by the experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital

Q: There seems to be a lot of talk lately about breastfeeding. Is there really that much of a difference between this and bottle feeding? What do most doctors recommend? A: Deciding how to feed your baby is a very personal decision, and there are many things to think about when choosing between breast/human and formula feeding. Most healthcare professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatricians and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates and Practitioners, recommend breastfeeding for your baby's first year. Human milk is the best, most natural and only source of nutrition necessary for the first six months of life. It is loaded with all sorts of protective antibodies and nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and good fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. It also provides the digestive proteins (enzymes), minerals, vitamins and hormones that infants need. Research has shown that babies who are breastfed, as compared to cow's milk-based formulas, have higher IQs and are less likely to get ear infections, infant allergies and eczema. They are also at less risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, digestive problems, tooth decay and weight problems. If you choose to breastfeed your baby, be sure to drink a lot of water every day and eat very nutritious, well-balanced meals. Keep in mind that whatever you ingest, including medications, has the potential to be passed to your baby through breast milk. Many moms have a lot of questions and some may need assistance breastfeeding, especially in the early stages. Be sure to talk with your primary care physician about all of this, and any concerns you may have. -Nehal Parikh, DO, MS is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Principal Investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital.