Which is Best - Breastfeeding or Formula?
It's a tough decision for many new parents: Should baby be breastfed or formula-fed? Fortunately, both are great options for baby.
In this article, we take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding
Simply put, there's no way formula can mimic everything that baby gets from breastmilk, although formula companies are getting better at trying.
Breastfeeding provides baby access to complex nutrition. This means your baby will take in fats which are important for brain development and energy, carbohydrates that provide energy and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract, protein which is essential for growth and protects against infections and vitamins and minerals which are needed for healthy growth and development. Data also suggests that breastfeeding:
- Protects baby from many illnesses including ear infections, stomach infections and respiratory infections
- Protects against many chronic illnesses later in life
There are benefits for breastfeeding moms too. Many new moms find it easier to lose weight when they're breastfeeding. Also, many moms who breastfeed report fewer problems with post-partum depression.
While there are many advantages to breastfeeding, there are also disadvantages, especially in the first few weeks. Many are temporary and are things a new mom can adjust to over time. For example:
- You're the only person who can feed baby. While you can pump, it still involves you, so you have to set aside time for it.
- You need to build up a milk supply, which means feeding frequently. Newborns will eat nearly every hour at first.
- Getting baby to latch can be difficult.
Try different things. Breastfeeding involves some trial and error. There are different positions you can put baby in while you breastfeed. One position may work best at some points and another position at other points. Talk to a lactation consultant or your pediatrician. You can also talk to other moms who are breastfeeding or watch YouTube videos online to see what works for others.
Pay attention to how your baby is feeding. You can often tell if your baby is getting breastmilk by watching how they swallow.
Many mothers who breastfeed will need to pump their breastmilk at some point. Initially, you shouldn't need to pump - unless you're having a problem with too little breastmilk. You will want to feed baby directly. The bonding time is important, and this is how your body figures out how to make enough milk.
After a couple of weeks of breastfeeding, it's okay to start pumping. Here are some things to consider:
- You'll likely have the most milk in the morning, so pump after your baby's morning feeding.
- If you return to work, it's ok to start pumping full-time.
- For breastmilk storage, remember 6-6-6: six hours on the counter, six days in the fridge, six months in the regular freezer.
Pros and Cons of Formula Feeding
Many moms decide to formula feed, and that's also a great way to feed your child! Parents make the choice for a variety of reasons, and formula feeding has many advantages:
- It's easier for moms, especially in the first few weeks, because anyone can feed baby.
- Babies get more milk initially. And because they're fuller, formula-fed babies sleep better for the first few weeks.
- Moms don't get as tired - baby is feeding less often and she has help.
- Baby will initially gain weight easier with formula.
The main con to formula feeding is that baby is not getting the complex nutrition or the immunity from mom's breastmilk. Formula won't protect baby from illness the way breastfeeding will.
Formula Feeding Tips
Boys Town Pediatricians don't endorse any one brand of formula. All the major U.S. brands are similar. It is, however, important to stick with brands made in the U.S. That way you'll know the formula conforms to FDA standards.
Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding
Boys Town Pediatricians recommend doing what's right for you and your partner. The most important thing is for your baby to be fed and have happy, loving parents. Whichever you choose, you'll be giving your baby the best chance of a healthy life.