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Breastmilk or Formula, Which is Best For Your Baby?

Updated: 7 days ago


pregnant person reading a book titled, "Breastmilk or Formula, Which is Best?"

Breastmilk or Formula, Which is Best for Your Baby?


One of the earliest decisions you'll make as a new parent revolves around how you'll feed your newborn. Breastmilk or formula, which is best? That's today's focus here on the blog!


Breastmilk or formula, each present with its own set of advantages disadvantages and considerations. Both methods provide essential nourishment for your baby, but the choice between them can be deeply personal and influenced by various factors. We will explore the differences between breastfeeding and bottle feeding, their benefits, challenges, and considerations in hopes of helping you make informed decisions. But first, it’s important to note that whatever your decide, both formula and breastmilk provide more than enough nutrients for proper brain and physical development.


Benefits of Breastfeeding


Breastfeeding is often heralded as the gold standard of infant nutrition, understandably

so. Here are some of its key benefits:

1. Optimal Nutrition: Breast milk is uniquely tailored to meet the nutritional needs of

infants, providing the ideal balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and antibodies to

support healthy growth and development through all the stages of infancy and into and through toddlerhood.

2. Immune System Support: There have been studies that show breast milk provides

distinct bioactive molecules that contribute to immune maturation, organ development,

and healthy microbial gut. Breast milk also creates and delivers unique antibodies from the mother to her baby, helping babies develop a strong immune system and protect them from illnesses.

3. Convenient and Economical: Breastfeeding is typically readily available and usually

requires little to no preparation and equipment. Pumping, however, does require a bit

more!

4. Bonding & Promotes Healing: Though you don’t have to breastfeed to give your baby breastmilk (exclusively pumping is also an option,) having the skin to skin and one on one time while breastfeeding can help promote bonding with your newborn. Breastfeeding requires some level of relaxation and rest and while you are breastfeeding your baby specific hormones create contractions helping the uterus shrink back to it's pre-baby size, promoting healing.


Challenges of Breastfeeding


Despite its numerous benefits, breastfeeding can present challenges for some parents.

These may include:

1. Initial Difficulties: Many experience challenges such as sore nipples, engorgement,

and difficulty latching in the early days of breastfeeding. For some, this can cause

additional postpartum mental health concerns, especially if you’re feeling pressured to

choose breastmilk!

2. Time and Commitment: Providing breastmilk requires a significant time commitment,

as newborns need to be fed frequently. Whether you’re choosing to breastfeed or pump,

you will have to set aside time every 1.5-3 hours, especially in the first few weeks of life,

and yes that includes throughout the nighttime!

3. Lack of Privacy: Some feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public or struggle with

societal pressures to cover up or breastfeed discreetly. Though it can be overcome, it

can occasionally lead to choosing to isolate to avoid the situation.

4. Still Costs Money: Is breastfeeding less expensive than formula feeding? Most of the

time, yes! But for many, the need or the choice to pump milk will require a pump/pump parts, nipple creams, breastmilk storage bags, sterilizer, and bottles for pumped milk. Cost of lactation support from an IBCLC should also be considered.

Benefits of Formula Feeding


Now we’ll go into formula feeding! Just like breastmilk, it has its pros:

1. Flexibility: Bottle feeding allows for more flexibility in feeding schedules, as fathers,

partners, or other caregivers can participate in feeding the baby. Allowing the birthing

person to get some much needed rest or have some time off from the demands of breastfeeding.

2. Predictability: With bottle feeding, parents can accurately measure the amount of milk

consumed by their baby, providing a sense of control and predictability.

3. Independence: Formula feeding can promote early independence for both parents

and baby, allowing parents to resume work or other activities sooner if desired.

4. Preference: Bottle feeding provides a convenient option for mothers who may have

difficulty breastfeeding due to medical reasons or just personal preferences. For some,

the stress of figuring out pumping/breastfeeding just isn’t worth it, and that’s okay!


Challenges of Formula Feeding


While formula feeding offers convenience and flexibility, it also has its own set of

challenges:

1. Cost: Formula feeding can be expensive, especially if your baby requires specialized

or hypoallergenic formulas. Though programs like WIC (Women, Infant, and Children

resources) exist, you still have to pay for bottles, parts, sterilizer, and any additional formula your baby will drink beyond what WIC provides.

2. Preparation and Cleanup: Bottle feeding requires careful preparation of formula,

sterilization of bottles, and regular cleanup of feeding equipment. Especially with a

newborn, this can feel like a lot of extra work for some parents.

3. Potential for Allergies: Some babies may have allergies or sensitivities to certain

ingredients in formula, requiring trial and error to find a suitable option. This can be disheartening for parents, especially seeing their babies uncomfortable or gassy.

4. Lack of Immune Protection: Though formula has the perfect amount of nutrients for

your baby, it does not have the same immune-boosting powers that breastmilk does.


So, breastmilk or formula, which is best?


Ultimately, the decision between breastmilk and formula is a personal one that should

take into account the parent's health, lifestyle, and preferences, as well as the

baby's needs and circumstances. Many find that a combination of breastfeeding and

formula feeding, known as mixed feeding or combo feeding, offers the best of both worlds, allowing for flexibility while still reaping the benefits of breast milk.


Just remember, breastmilk and formula are BOTH valid and loving ways to nourish your baby, each with its own set of advantages and challenges. Whether you need or choose to breastfeed, formula feed, or use a combination of both, what matters most is that your baby receives the love, care, and nutrition they need to thrive. As parents, it's essential to approach feeding decisions with an open mind, seeking support and guidance as needed, and ultimately trusting your instincts to do what's best for your baby and your family as a whole should be considered.


woman in rust colored dress and glasses smiles as she sits in a hammock chair

Authored by Elizabeth Luke


Elizabeth is the founder and CEO of The Jacksonville Baby Company. With certifications in Postpartum and Infant Care Support, Childbirth and Newborn Care Education, Lactation Support, and Infant Sleep, Elizabeth is a wealth of knowledge and has a heart for helping parents live their best lives while also ensuring their children are safe, happy, and leading the healthiest lives possible! Contact us today for day, night, and live-in support! 

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