Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding: Which Is the Better Option?

The breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate has gone on for years. No matter which option you choose, someone is going to think you are wrong. Some people do not like seeing mothers breastfeed in public, but others may judge mothers for using formula to feed their newborn. This causes many mothers to feel guilty, but we are going to lay out all the facts for you. Spoiler alert: In the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate, the right answer is completely up to you. Each option has its benefits and challenges, so you get to decide what is right for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Benefits

Many people refer to breast milk as “nature’s perfect food” for babies, and they are right to do so. A mother’s breast milk is specially formulated to meet their baby’s needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their baby until they are six months old. After that, you can start introducing new foods, but they also recommend that you keep letting them breastfeed until they are a year old. Obviously, this time frame is dependent on the willingness of both the mother and child. 

To help you see why breastfeeding is perfect for your child, here are the benefits of breastfeeding vs formula feeding.

Protects Baby

Breast milk grants a protection to newborn babies that they cannot have any other way. During breastfeeding, mothers pass on antibodies and other germ-fighters that help strengthen the baby’s immune system. This lowers the chance of infection in newborn babies, including ear infection, diarrhea, meningitis, and respiratory infections. It may also protect babies from allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and SIDS.

Provides Best Nutrition

If you want to give your baby all the nutrition they need, breast milk is the way to go. Comprising of lactose, protein, and fat, this baby food is the most easily digestible for infants. This makes them less likely to experience constipation, diarrhea, and gas. The only thing breast milk does not have is vitamin D, which is crucial for infants to develop strong bones. Thankfully, you can easily receive supplements from your doctor.

Free and Convenient

In the breastfeeding vs formula debate, breastfeeding is both free and convenient. If you choose to exclusively breastfeed, you do not need all the supplies for feeding. This includes items like bottles, nipples, formula, and etc. In fact, the mother has everything the child needs. You also do not have to go through the effort of preparing the infant’s food. Everything is ready right when they are hungry.

Promotes Mother's Health

Breastfeeding not only promotes the baby’s health, but it boosts the mother’s health as well. The close, skin-to-skin contact between mother and child during breastfeeding helps them to bond. This method of feeding also helps mothers to burn calories and shrink their uterus so they can return to their pre-pregnancy size. Mothers who breastfeed are also less likely to develop breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and uterine or ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding Challenges

Although breastfeeding is almost always the best choice for your infant, it comes with challenges as well. Here are just a handful of the challenges mothers face when they choose to breastfeed.

  • Comfort: Latch-on pain is normal for the first 7 to 10 days because it takes time for the baby to learn how to feed. Both mother and child have to learn the proper unique, and it will be uncomfortable to feed until then.
  • Frequency of feeding: Because breast milk digests better, babies need to feed more often than those fed with formula. This may require mothers to feed their babies once every two hours or so for the first few weeks.
  • Diet: Just like when mothers are pregnant, they have to watch what they eat while breastfeeding. Mothers need to avoid alcohol and fish high in mercury. They should also reduce their caffeine intake because it can make babies restless and irritable.
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Formula Feeding Benefits

Many people shame mothers for formula feeding their babies but do not let that make you feel guilty. Whether it is your personal choice to use formula or medical reason are to blame, you can still raise a healthy baby. If you have medical conditions that worry you, be sure to talk to a doctor to see if you should feed your baby formula instead. Remember, in the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate, you can choose whichever option is best for you. Here are the benefits of formula feeding your baby.

Convenient and Flexible

Bottle feeding your baby comes with a convenience and flexibility that breastfeeding mothers cannot achieve. Yes, breastfeeding mothers can pump milk and keep it for later, but they still have to take the time out of their day to pump. With formula, you can make a bottle for your baby whenever you need to. This allows both partners to take part in the feeding process and bond with their child. If you have to leave your baby with a babysitter, all you have to do is leave the formula and bottles ready for them.

Next Best in Nutrition

While breast milk provides the best nutrition for babies, formula is the next best food for them. Companies create commercially prepared formula under sterile conditions and add all the vitamins and nutrients infants need to grow and be healthy. They even add vitamin D, which you cannot find in breast milk. This means that you can feed your baby without having to give them supplements as well.

No Diet Restrictions

The other great benefit of using formula in the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate is that mothers no longer need to restrict their diet. Mothers can eat and drink whatever they want without the fear of passing anything on to their child. If you have really been craving tuna sushi, you can eat it without fear of exposing your child to mercury.

Formula Feeding Challenges

Just like breastfeeding, formula feeding comes with its own challenges. In the breastfeeding vs formula debate, both options are great, but you also have to accept the challenges. Here is what else you have to look forward to if you choose to feed formula to your baby.

  • Lack of antibodies: While formula is the next best nutrition for infants, it cannot match the complexity of breast milk. Babies do not receive antibodies and other germ-fighting agents from formula, so they are more likely to get sick or an infection. Breast milk also changes to match the needs of the baby, and formula does not.
  • Required planning: Unlike readily available breast milk, you have to be more organized with formula. When your baby is hungry, you have to make the bottle and make sure it is the right temperature, which may take more time than an irritable baby wants to wait. You also need to have enough formula in stock so you do not have to run to the store in the middle of the night.
  • Expenses: There are several different kinds of formula, and the powdered variety is the least expensive. Even still, if you need soy formula or hypoallergenic formula, it can be even more expensive. On top of that, you have to pay for all the supplies, like bottles, nipples, and etc.

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding: Which Do You Choose?

When it comes to the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate, you can choose whichever option is best for you and your baby. Do not let anyone else’s opinion make you feel guilty or like an unfit mother. Both a breastfed baby and a formula fed baby can grow up to be healthy and strong. You can even alternate between using breast milk and formula. If you are not sure which option is best for you, talk to your doctor to discuss your options.

Related Article: The Best Organic Baby Formula to Feed Your Infant

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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