One of the most important decisions that parents will ever make is choosing whether to formula feed or breastfeed their baby. Most health experts state that the best nutritional option for babies is breast milk. However, not all women are able to breastfeed.
There are many different factors that go into deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed a baby, including specific medical conditions, lifestyle and comfort level. Ultimately, it is a very personal decision and it is important to weigh the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus formula to help determine which is the best choice for you and your infant.
Nursing is often an incredible experience for both a baby and mother. It provides a baby with the best nourishment and special bonding experience between mother and child.
Many health organizations recommend breastfeeding as being the best option for feeding babies. In addition, breastfeeding helps to protect against various chronic conditions, prevent allergies and defend against infections.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Fighting infections and other types of conditions. Breastfed babies are hospitalized less and experience fewer infections compared to formula-fed babies. During breastfeeding, germ-fighting substances and antibodies pass from the mother over to her infant to help strength the baby’s immune system and reduce the chances of getting infections.
- Ease of digestion and nutrition. Breast milk is often referred to as the ideal food for an infant’s digestive system since the components of breast milk – fat, protein, and lactose – are digested easily by a newborn. There are also many minerals and vitamins contained in breast milk.
- It’s free. Formula can start to get expensive while breast milk is absolutely free.
- Different tastes. Babies are introduced to different tastes via breast milk, which will vary depending on which foods the mother has eaten. This also helps breastfed babies to more easily transition to solid foods later.
- Convenience. There is no need to go to the store to buy more formula or to wash nipples and bottles.
For some mothers, breastfeeding may be easy from the very beginning, while others will need to get used to it. Both mothers and infants need to have a lot of patience to become accustomed to a breastfeeding routine.
Some of the most common concerns of new mothers include:
- Personal comfort: many mothers initially feel uncomfortable breastfeeding. However, most mothers are able to overcome this with proper practice, support and education.
- Latch-on pain during the initial 7 to 10 days. If it persists this could be a matter of not using the proper technique but there could be an infection or other issue.
- Frequency and timing of feedings. Mothers have to invest a big-time commitment into breastfeeding. A breastfeeding schedule or having to pump breast milk throughout the day can make it more difficult for mothers to travel, run errands, and work.
- Breastfed babies must eat more frequently since breast milks digest more quickly than formula.
- Diet: Woman who breastfeed must be conscious of what they eat since it is passed on to their infant via their breast milk.
- Medical conditions: There are certain medicines and treatments that make it unsafe to breastfeed.
Many of the above challenges may be helped by using a breast pump machine to pump milk and then bottle-feed the baby.
Commercial infant formulas can be a nutritious alternative to a mother’s breast milk and may even contain some nutrients and vitamins that breastfed babies have to get through supplements.
Commercial formulas are made under sterile conditions and attempt to duplicate breast milk through use complex combinations of vitamins, fats, sugars, and proteins.
Some mothers might have medical conditions that prevent breastfeeding, while breastfeeding might be too stressful or difficult for others. The following are some of the other main reasons why some mothers choose to formula feed their baby:
- Convenience: Anyone can feed an infant a bottle of formula at any time. Therefore, feeding duties can be shared.
- Flexibility. There is no need to schedule work and other obligations or pump around the feeding schedule of the baby.
- Frequency and timing of feedings. Formula-fed babies do not need to eat as frequently.
- Diet. Mothers who formula feed don’t have to worry about the foods and beverages they consume affecting their baby’s health.
Formula Feeding Challenges
- Lack of antibodies. Manufactured formulas do not have the antibodies that are contained in breast milk, so they do not provide babies with the added protection against illness and infection the way breast milk does.
- Organization and planning. While breast milk is always available, formula must be purchased and be on hand when the baby needs it. Necessary supplies such as nipples and bottles also need to be on hand and clean.
- Expense. Formula can be expensive.
Breastfeeding Vs. Formula – How to Choose
It can be a difficult to decide whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby and is a very personal decision based on your own individual circumstances. Carefully weigh the pros and cons and speak to your doctor and family to help you make the best choice.