Breastfeeding or Formula – Which Is Right for Me?
Breastfeeding or Formula – Which Is Right for Me?
This content has been reviewed and approved for quality and accuracy by James O'Loan (GPhC: 2084549)
Should I breastfeed or formula feed my baby?
One of the most important things that pregnant mothers have to consider is how they’re going to feed their baby.
Are you going to breastfeed? Use a pump to express breastmilk and bottle feed? Are you going to use formula to feed your baby? Maybe a combination of all of these methods?
It’s a lot to think about, but today we’re going to try to get to the bottom of which method is the best choice for you.
We’ll look at the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, so you can make the best decision for you and your little one.
The benefits of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has so many huge benefits, and you won’t be surprised to learn that over 73% of new mothers start by breastfeeding their baby so they can make the most of these rewards.
Let’s start by looking at all of the pros of breastfeeding and what they mean for you and your baby.
Health benefits for your baby
When you breastfeed your baby, you pass some of your own protection from diseases and infections onto your little one, helping to keep them safe from illnesses.
This is why the NHS recommend that you give your baby nothing but breastmilk for the first 6 months of their life. Breastfeeding your baby can reduce their risk of:
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Childhood leukaemia
- Cardiovascular disease in adulthood
These health benefits alone are enough to convince lots of mothers to breastfeed – it’s no wonder people say breast is best – but we’re just getting started. Let’s look at some of the other pros.
Health benefits for you
Your baby isn’t the only one who can benefit from breastfeeding, when you breastfeed you can enjoy some pretty great benefits too.
Breastfeeding can lower your risk of certain diseases and health conditions, including:
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
So, breastfeeding is great for baby and great for you too! Some of you may be convinced already, but let’s continue our list of pros.
Your milk is perfect for your baby
Your breastmilk is created by you for your baby, meaning that they’ll get a unique formula that can give them everything they need to grow up healthy and happy.
Your breastmilk has a unique balance of nutrients and antibodies that your baby will benefit from and it’s easy for your little one to digest, reducing the probability of digestive problems.
You can feed your baby whenever you want
Breastfeeding your baby when you’re on the go is quick and easy.
No having to carry around bottles and equipment for you, just find somewhere to stop for a moment, breastfeed your baby and get back to business.
This way you know that you can feed your baby whenever and wherever they need it!
Some mothers choose to breastfeed their babies because they simply enjoy the bonding time it brings them.
There’s something about breastfeeding that creates a strong emotional bond between mother and child, and some mothers wouldn’t trade this bonding time for anything.
Are there any disadvantages to breastfeeding?
Yes, there are a long list of advantages to breastfeeding, but there are also a few cons.
Next up, we’ve got our reasons why you might not be a fan of breastfeeding.
Sore nipples and breasts
Yes, you can suffer with sore nipples and breasts as a result of breastfeeding, and some people would rather not have to deal with the pain and discomfort.
But if you are set on breastfeeding, you’ll be happy to learn that problems such as sore, cracked nipples or breasts that become engorged and painful when they’re too full of milk can be treated easily.
Most of the time, your doctor, Chemist 4 U pharmacist, or midwife will have seen all of these problems before and will be able to tell you how to treat them quickly and easily.
Eating a healthy diet is important whether you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or just going through life in general, and although your diet rarely affects breastfeeding, there are a couple of restrictions you’ll need to consider while breastfeeding.
This is because all of the nutrients you take in through your diet pass to your baby through your breast milk, and some of them aren’t the best for baby.
The NHS recommends that breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t have more than 2 portions of oily fish every week, including fresh tuna, trout, and sardines, so if you’re a fish fan you might be out of luck.
Coffee lovers out there may also be sad to learn that your caffeine intake can affect your little one, making them restless and keeping them awake when they could be getting some much-needed sleep.
Any new parent will tell you that getting your baby to sleep is vital (if only so you can get some sleep too!), so pay attention to your caffeine intake if you’re planning to breastfeed.
Alcohol, smoking and breastfeeding
It’s common knowledge that giving up alcohol and smoking is essential for pregnant mothers, but if you’re breastfeeding you’re going to want to keep away from alcohol and cigarettes for another few months too.
Again, everything you take into your body can be passed to your little one through your breastmilk, so if you’re going to have to think twice about having that glass of wine to celebrate your friend’s birthday.
In fact, the NHS recommends that breastfeeding mothers should not drink more than 2 units once or twice a week.
If you’re a smoker, you probably already know that there are lots and lots of reasons why smoking is bad for your health, and if you continue smoking while you breastfeed you risk passing these problems onto your baby.
If you or your partner smoke, then keeping your home smoke free and safe for your baby is essential for their wellbeing, even if you decide against breastfeeding.
Many medicines for pre-existing conditions can be taken without harming your baby, but some medical conditions may mean that you should not breastfeed at all.
For example, if you have HIV your doctor may recommend that you don’t breastfeed as it could pose a risk to you or your baby.
There are also come medications that could harm your baby but could be essential for your own health, such as drugs for treating cancer, meaning that you’ll have to avoid breastfeeding.
Going back to work
Breastfeeding is perfect for parents who are going to be with their baby most of the time, but if you’re planning on going back to work or spending lots of time away from your baby, breastfeeding may prove difficult.
However, there are ways around this problem, such as using a breast pump to express milk that someone else can give to your baby when you’re not around.
This can even be an opportunity for your partner or other family members to have bonding time with baby, so it has its pros too.
The benefits of formula feeding
So now we know all of the ins and outs of breastfeeding, lets take a look at our other option – formula feeding.
This is when you make milk for your baby out of premade powdered formula and water, making sure that everything you use to make this milk is sterilised and baby friendly.
Let’s take a look at the pros of using this method for feeding your little one.
Someone else can feed your baby
As we mentioned in our last section, you can express breastmilk for your baby to drink while you’re not around, so this isn’t necessarily a formula exclusive pro.
However, some people prefer formula because it can be prepared by anyone, at any time, so you can be sure that your baby will always have as much as they need.
Your health condition or medication won’t affect your baby
If your health condition or medication mean that breastfeeding your baby isn’t an option, you can formula feed them instead.
This way you’ll know they’re getting enough food without having to worry about any negative health effects.
Disadvantages of formula feeding
So, there are our formula feeding pros, what about the cons? We’ve got a few points to cover, so sit back, relax, and let’s share some information.
None of the health benefits of breast feeding
As we said earlier, breastfeeding your baby can provide a huge amount of health benefits for both you and baby.
Formula feeding means that neither of you will receive these benefits, which is a huge con when it comes to your baby’s fragile immune system.
Formula feeding can be expensive
Breastfeeding is free and will always be free, everything to do with formula feeding costs money.
The cost of bottles, rubber nipples, sterilising equipment and formula adds up, which could be an expense you don’t need when considering all of the other things you’ll need to buy for your little one.
Mixing formula can be difficult on the go
Breastfeeding is easy to do when you’re on the go, but the same can’t be said for formula feeding.
Making sure that all of the equipment is sterilised and the formula is the right temperature may be easy enough in the comfort of your own home, but when you’re out and about it can pose a unique set of challenges.
You can transport pre-made formula, but it can only be kept at room temperature for 2 hours before it should be thrown out and not given to your baby.
Your baby might have digestive trouble
Bottle feeding can give your baby gas or constipation and can even make your baby’s poo less firm.
If you value your baby’s digestive health, you might decide that breast is best after all.
Should I breastfeed or bottle feed?
At the end of the day, the decision to breastfeed or bottle feed is entirely up to you as a new parent.
We’ve given you the pros and cons on both sides, now it’s up to you to make the best decision for your baby.
Becoming a parent is always a big adventure, whether it's your first time or not, so good luck and enjoy your time with your little one!