Hmmm, to breastfeed or to bottle feed, that is the question!
As a mother that’s just given birth to her newborn or is expecting to deliver anytime now and is planning everything in advance, you’re faced with having to decide on whether to feed your baby breast milk that’s referred to as a mother’s golden liquid, or formula milk that proves to be much more convenient for many mothers instead.
At the end of the day, we’re not here to convince you on which feeding method you should go with if you’ve already set your mind on one over the other.
In an ideal world, you would have discussed everything there is to talk about regarding breastfeeding vs formula feeding with your doctor before or shortly after you gave birth to your baby, they would tell you everything you need to know and answer any questions you may have.
Our job is just to show you the pros & cons of breastfeeding and pros & cons of formula feeding – and let you be the judge.
Before we kick this article off, keep in mind that none of this is professional medical advice, this is to be taken as general advice at best.
For professional medical advice, we suggest that you consult with your doctor or a lactation consultant, because no two cases are alike when trying to determine whether breastfeeding or formula feeding is the better method to go with for either baby or mother.
Breastfeeding VS Formula Feeding – Which Is Better? The Quick & Short Answer
If you’re looking for the quick and short answer to the question of which is better for your baby from a nutritional and developmental standpoint – then breastfeeding has always been, is and always will be the better option.
Experts always recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies during the first 6 months of their lives at the very least. This recommendation comes from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).
Any less than that and you’ll be putting your baby at a risk of improper development and higher chances of experiencing health problems when they grow up.
When your baby becomes 12 months old, experts say that it’s up to you to decide whether you want to continue breastfeeding them, shift to formula milk instead or keep a combination of both at the same time.
At this point and when your baby is older than 1 year of age, the negative effects associated with not breastfeeding them are much less significant.
Not A Black & White Choice
The good news for anyone debating which of the two feeding methods they should go with is that it doesn’t have to be a black and white choice where either method will not work with the other.
On the contrary, the truth is that these two methods work and complement one another very well when used at the same time.
You can have the best of both worlds if you breastfeed your baby whenever possible (be that through direct breastfeeding as a preferred choice of pumping breast milk into a bottle for later use as the second best alternative), and feed your baby formula milk whenever you don’t have any other option.
This is called supplementing with formula milk and has been a very popular practice for a long time now.
Why Is Breastfeeding Better Than Formula Milk For Babies?
Let’s look at some of the most notable advantages associated with breastfeeding your baby instead of feeding them formula milk through a bottle.
Mommy Baby Bond: One of the most difficult things to replicate in life is the mommy baby bond that’s created between the two during this skin to skin contact that happens in a direct breastfeeding session.
Not only are you the one being responsible for satiating your baby’s hunger, you’re doing it through the most nutritious of baby food that’s being formed inside your body.
Nutrient Profile: No matter how you look at it and even if you were to compare breast milk to the absolute best, most advanced milk formula for babies out there, breast milk is going to come out the winner each and every time.
A mother’s natural breast milk is more nutritious than any human made milk formula out there, and this is something that all experts agree on.
No matter how advanced a milk formula is, there are some essential nutrients that are only found in a mother’s breast milk that it will never be able to offer a baby.
No Cost: Have you ever heard of a mother paying for breast milk she plans on feeding her baby? Of course not, breast milk is as free as it gets!
Unlike formula milk which you have to pay for on an ongoing basis, coughing figures that could reach the low 100’s per month and could easily cross the 1000$ mark every year (depending on which brand you go with and how many babies you want to feed).
This is, of course, just comparing the cost of breast milk in and of itself as compared to the cost of formula milk, and not taking into consideration the cost of baby bottles that you will be needing if you decide to pump breast milk instead of directly breastfeed from nipple to mouth.
Imagine what you could buy for baby instead with all that money over the years, just a thought.
Easily Digestible: The easiest milk for a baby to digest is their mother’s breast milk.
It’s the easiest for their bodies to break down, it’s the most effective (in the sense that as little nutrients are lost during the digestion process) and it’s also the one that requires the least time to be properly digested.
The same can’t be said about formula milk for babies, though, which are more difficult for a baby’s body to properly break down and end up requiring longer time to be properly digested.
Because of this difference in ease of digestion, breastfed babies tend to experience less constipation and gas in general than babies fed formula.
What Are The Advantages Of Feeding Baby Formula Instead Of Breast Milk?
Second Best Alternative: Despite the fact that breastfeeding is the more beneficial method for babies when compared to formula milk fed through a bottle, feeding babies formula milk also has some advantages to it that make it the more suitable option at certain times for many mothers.
After all, not all mothers who choose to feed their babies formula milk have willingly chosen to do so themselves.
Many mothers desperately want to breastfeed their babies but have physical or medical conditions that prevent them from doing so, be that through direct breastfeeding or pumping breast milk into a bottle for baby to feed on afterwards.
If you have a medical condition that prevents you from breastfeeding your baby, you should follow your doctor’s orders to the T, for the best interest of both yourself and your little one.
For these mothers, formula milk may be the only option they have to work with.
Formula milk may not be as beneficial and nutritious as breast milk directly fed to baby through skin to skin contact, but it’s definitely a much better option than trying to prepare your own milk at home to feed baby, or even worse attempting to feed them cow milk.
How Easy It Is To Prepare: Probably the biggest advantage there is to feeding your baby formula milk instead of breast milk, and one most mothers look forward to when making the change, is how easy and how convenient it is for them to prepare their baby’s bottle.
There’s no need to prepare for a breastfeeding session, no need to buy a nursing cover if you’re planning on doing it in public or somewhere family/friends are around, no need to use a breast pump and worry about all that constant sanitation you need to do to the machine, etc ..
And since you won’t have to do anything mentioned above, this frees up a lot of time in your schedule that you can use to invest in other day to day responsibilities you may have.
Pains, Begone: Many mothers out there simply cannot continue to breastfeed while remaining sane because of the physical pain they go through, be that through direct breastfeeding or pumping breast milk.
When feeding your baby formula from a bottle, all these physical pains and annoyances will be long gone.
Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: We’ve also talked about this advantage before in this article where we compare feeding babies pumped breast milk stored in a bottle vs direct breastfeeding.
When feeding baby from a bottle, you (the mother) don’t actually have to be the one doing it. For starters, anyone can do it (your husband, your other kid, a relative, a caregiver, etc ..) because the mother’s breasts have no part to take in this whatsoever.
It can also be done anywhere you and your baby are at any time, meaning you can feed a baby formula milk from a bottle in public without needing a nursing cover or anything like that, unlike the privacy you’d need during a direct breastfeeding session.
Bonding – But Not With Mommy: Someone else (your husband or any other family member) may also want to take part in the bonding experience that happens during bottle feeding time.
This is impossible to achieve with direct breastfeeding because you (the mother) are the only one on earth that can take part in that with your baby, but is easily achievable when all that’s needed is a person and a baby bottle.
Less Feeding: Formula milk takes significantly more time for a baby’s digestive system to properly break down, unlike breast milk which is quickly digested by a baby’s system.
This need for more time to be properly digested translates to less feeding sessions in a day’s time, which means less time you have to invest into all of this and more time freed up for other responsibilities (or rest).
Eat And Drink What You Want: When breastfeeding your baby, you have to worry about all sorts of things you eat and drink during this phase.
If you eat or drink (and even smoke) something that’s not very good for your health, this could very well pass on to your baby through your breast milk and end up negatively affecting their health as well.
So for all of you mothers out there who like to have a glass of wine at night to relax after a hard day’s work, you’ll have to cut out any alcohol from your system during this phase because it will pass on to your baby through breastfeeding, no matter how small the amount you’re drinking is.
When feeding your baby formula milk from a bottle, you won’t have to worry about any of that.
Obviously enough though, we still want you to take care of yourself to the best of your abilities even if you won’t be breastfeeding and none of what you eat, drink or smoke will be passing on to your baby, so don’t go and do much harm to yourself now just because baby won’t be affected by it!
Besides eating stuff that’s bad for your health (and that of your baby as a result), you’re also going to have to watch your diet in general because there’s a lot of “healthy” food that makes your breast milk more difficult for baby to digest, and food your baby may not tolerate at all to begin with.
Not Much Link Between Mother’s Health And Baby’s Health: If you have a certain illness and are taking medication for it, you put your baby at risk of contracting this illness as well through breastfeeding.
Even if the illness in and of itself cannot be passed to your baby through breastfeeding, the medication you’re taking for it definitely can.
When feeding your baby formula milk through a bottle, you won’t have to worry about these two scenarios.
Whichever option you decide to go with and however you end up feeding your baby, don’t give yourself too much of a hard time about it.
Keep things simple in life and only work with what you’re able to.
If you’re able to breastfeed without feeling excruciating pain because of cracked nipples or sensitive breasts, then do it.
If you’re able to breastfeed without risking your own health or that of your baby, then do it.
If not, then work with what you have and opt for the second best alternative available by starting your search for the best milk formulas for babies on the market today.
The point is, focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t control.