Thinking back to my first prenatal check-up, I remember seeing all of the posters saying “Breast Is Best” and not even thinking about the possibility of formula feeding. But what if that isn’t the right option for you? Or what if you want to breastfeed, but you can’t? In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula feeding.
Knowing this information before your baby is born will help you weigh your options to decide what is best for you.
Before we get started, always remember that fed is best. Don’t feel guilty if you cannot breastfeed when you always thought you would. What matters most is that your baby’s nutritional and emotional needs are being met.
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. To find out more, you can read my disclaimer here. Also, I am not a doctor; I’m just a mama sharing what I’ve learned through my experiences. This information is not to be used as medical advice or diagnosis, and as always, consult your doctor with any of your questions or concerns.
There is no doubt that breastfeeding is great for both mom and baby. That doesn’t mean that it’s the right choice for everyone. Here are the pros and cons of breastfeeding your baby:
Pros of Breastfeeding
1. Breastmilk is Easily Digested
Because breastmilk is made of natural components, your baby digests breastmilk much more quickly than formula. Also, this can mean that while your baby is only consuming breastmilk, there is a good chance that they won’t get constipated.
One thing that I learned while breastfeeding is that your baby might not poop as much! A breastfed baby can go several days without pooping, and that’s because they absorb mostly everything in breastmilk.
Also, breastfed baby poop doesn’t stain near as bad when there is the inevitable blowout. I’ve found that as long as you spray the stain with some stain remover right away, it comes right out. (This stain remover always worked excellently!)
2. Your Baby’s Milk is Free
If you choose to breastfeed exclusively, there isn’t a whole lot that you need to buy. For the bare minimum, you’ll need breastfeeding essentials like nursing bras, nipple cream, and breast pads, but that’s about it.
On the other hand, if you plan to pump, you will need to buy some supplies to get started. At the very least, you’ll need a breast pump and feeding bottles. But, the good news is that your insurance will likely cover the cost of a breast pump, so it’s worth a call to find out!
You’ll also love: Breast Pump Essentials For Nursing Moms
3. It’s Good For Mom, Too
There are numerous benefits for moms while breastfeeding which are important to keep in mind when weight the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula. Here are the top three benefits:
- Breastfeeding helps the uterus shrink back down to its standard size after birth. Also, breastfeeding moms can experience less postpartum bleeding.
- There is a lot of cuddling while breastfeeding, which means your body releases oxytocin during that time. Oxytocin helps with emotions like stress or sadness, which are both prevalent emotions in new moms.
- Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day, which means you may be able to lose baby weight faster.
4. Baby Can Develop a Diverse Palate
The food that you eat affects the taste of your breastmilk. When you eat a wide variety of foods, your baby is getting exposed to many different flavors from the beginning.
Because your baby experiences a variety of different tastes, there is a good chance they might be less picky when it comes to starting solid foods.
5. It’s Convenient
If you choose to breastfeed exclusively, it’s a convenient way to feed your baby. You never have to worry about washing bottles every day or preparing milk. Also, you never have to worry about getting the temperature just right.
In addition, nighttime feedings are shorter because you don’t have to go to the kitchen to make a bottle. Also, night feedings are significantly more manageable if you choose to room share. You won’t have to go to another room in the middle of the night to feed your baby.
6. Made Especially For Your Baby
One of the many benefits of breastfeeding your baby is that you will provide your baby with the nutrients, fat, and protein they need.
Breastmilk also contains antibodies that help strengthen your baby’s immune system. Plus, breastmilk can lower your baby’s risk of getting allergies.
Another fantastic thing about breastmilk is that it changes to meet your baby’s needs. Here’s a perfect example from La Leche League International:
“Breast milk undergoes biochemical changes during a feeding; the consistency develops visually over the course of a pumping session from watery foremilk to creamier hindmilk. Human milk also has the ability to provide for an infant’s changing nutritional needs with age. The percentages of fat and protein levels change over time to meet the increased energy demands of mobile babies.”La Leche League International
7. Plenty Of Cuddle Time
Breastfed babies find a lot of soothing comfort in nursing. It’s pretty special to be able to provide that level of comfort to your child.
Also, in the early days of breastfeeding, the skin-to-skin time you will be doing with your baby during feedings will help them feel safe and secure. It also provides more time to bond with your baby since newborns nurse often.
8. Milk is Always Available
When you choose to breastfeed your baby, you know that milk is always available. Whether you are running errands or on a road trip, you won’t have to worry about bringing milk along.
Also, when you breastfeed, you don’t have to worry about the grocery store running out of stock or the milk being recalled.
9. Might Help With Postpartum Weight Loss
As I mentioned above, exclusively breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day. Because your body is burning those extra calories, it can help you lose baby weight a bit faster.
Cons of Breastfeeding
1. Less Help With Feedings
If you choose to exclusively breastfeed with no pumping, you will be the only one to do all of the feedings. It’s a pretty massive job!
If you don’t want to be the only one to feed your baby, you can pump, and then others would be able to bottle feed your baby to give you some relief.
If you are returning to work, pumping would be the best option for you if you want to breastfeed. Just be prepared; pumping is also a lot of work. (See #6 for more on this one.)
- The Best Tips For Pumping At Work
- Must-Have Tips For Breastfeeding Moms
- What To Do When Baby Falls Asleep While Breastfeeding
- When Does Breastfeeding Get Easier? Things To Know
2. Frequent Feedings = Less Freedom
When you exclusively breastfeed, your baby relies on you for their nutrition. You are their sole food source, so you need to be available for them.
If there are times when you have to be away from your child, you will need to plan on pumping to have enough milk for your baby. Pumping can take just as much time as a nursing session, if not more, so you have to plan accordingly.
3. Still Have to Watch Diet
Like during pregnancy, you have to watch what you consume while breastfeeding. While you don’t necessarily have to stay away from things like lunch meat, there are some things to avoid.
For example, you will still want to limit your caffeine intake as caffeine can pass through to your milk. Also, it’s good to be mindful of eating fish that have high mercury content. And lastly, if you would like to have an alcoholic drink, you will need to pump and dump.
4. It Can Be Painful
When you start breastfeeding, you might have pain while your baby is latching on. Also, it’s possible to have painful letdowns.
In my experience, both of the things mentioned above were only painful for a couple of months. There are usually different things you can do to ease the pain; it might just be a matter of wrong positioning.
There is also a good chance that you could develop plugged ducts or even mastitis. Both of these things are pretty painful, but as long as you identify these problems early, you will be able to resolve them without interfering with your breastfeeding.
5. Can’t Measure The Ounces Baby Is Getting
This is a nerve-wracking subject when you start breastfeeding your baby, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever breastfed. You always wonder, is my baby eating enough?
A simple way to tell is just by monitoring your baby’s wet diapers. Your baby will typically have one wet diaper for however many days old they are in the first days.
For example, at one day old, they should have one wet diaper; at two days old, they should have two wet diapers. The pattern will repeat until your milk comes in, and then your baby should have 5+ wet diapers a day.
Another way to judge if your baby is eating enough is by checking their weight gain. Our local hospital has a breastfeeding support group that is free to go to.
You can talk to lactation consultants about any problems you might be having, and they also have a scale to weigh your baby. Check and see if your hospital offers something similar!
6. Pumping Is Hard Work
If you need to pump breastmilk, it is a lot of work. You have to pump frequently and then clean and sterilize all of your pump parts.
If you are returning to work, you will need to find a private space to pump in. (By the way, this can’t be a bathroom.) It’s not too bad once you get the hang of it, but prepare yourself for the difficult beginning.
Deciding if you will pump breastmilk is another great thing to keep in mind when comparing the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula.
You’ll also love: When To Replace Breast Pump Parts
7. Breastfeeding In Public
There will probably be a time when you have to breastfeed in public. That might be because you have to go out to run errands, or maybe you’re at a family gathering. This can be a con of breastfeeding because many women can feel uncomfortable doing so.
Either way, if you are uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, you will likely need to use a cover or find a more private place.
Not sure if you are sold on the whole breastfeeding process? Here are the pros and cons of formula feeding your baby:
Pros of Formula Feeding
1. More Help With Feedings
If you choose to formula feed your baby, it will be much easier for you to have help with feedings. Anyone can make a bottle and give you a much-needed break.
Also, because your partner can feed the baby, it will give them another opportunity for some bonding time.
2. Baby Stays Full For Longer
Baby formula isn’t as easily digested as breastmilk is, so your baby might stay full for longer. This can potentially help your baby sleep for a more extended period since they won’t be hungry as soon.
3. You Can Track Ounces
When you feed your baby formula, you can easily make sure your baby is eating enough. You will know how many ounces they get for each feeding, and you won’t be wondering if they drank enough at the last feeding.
4. You Don’t Have To Watch Diet
When giving your baby formula, you will never have to watch what you are eating. It’s as simple as that!
5. No Discomfort For Mom
When breastfeeding, you might have uncomfortable engorgement, leaking, or even plugged milk ducts. When using formula to feed your child, you don’t have to experience any of that discomfort once your milk dries up after birth.
Cons of Formula Feeding
1. It’s Expensive
Formula can get pretty expensive. Depending on what kind of formula you use, it can cost you up to $35 per can.
On the plus side, if you want to use formula, you can sign up to get coupons from Similac and Enfamil. They will typically send you $5 coupons in the mail at least once a month!
When comparing the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula, it can be beneficial to review your budget if you’re thinking of formula feeding.
2. Doesn’t Provide The Same Immune Protection
While formula is still great for your baby, it won’t have the antibodies and other benefits that you would pass to your baby through breastmilk.
3. Requires More Planning
When formula feeding, you will spend more time planning and preparing. For example, whenever you leave the house, you’ll have to bring however much milk you’ll need for the time you’ll be out.
Also, you have to spend time measuring, mixing, and warming up the formula to the correct temperature.
4. You Need More Things
If you choose to formula feed, you will need quite a few different things.
You will need bottles and nipples, washing items such as brushes, a bottle sterilizer, and a dishwasher basket. Also, you might want to invest in a bottle warmer.
Some of these items also apply if you are going to be pumping breastmilk and bottle feeding that way, so keep this in mind.
5. Spend More Time Washing Dishes
As I mentioned above, you’ll need more items when formula feeding. Many of these items have to be washed after each use, which can add up to quite a bit of time.
How To Decide?
If you’re still unsure about how you want to feed your baby, take these pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula and think about what will work best for your family.
Think about your schedule or what kind of help you will have. That should help you come to a conclusion.
The Most Important Takeaway:
Whichever way you choose to feed your baby, they are still getting fed, which matters most! Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember that you are an awesome mom!
Before you go, check out these related articles:
- How Dads Can Help Out Breastfeeding Moms
- The Ultimate Guide For Night Weaning
- How To Stay Awake While Breastfeeding At Night
- What To Do When Your Baby Refuses the Bottle
- How To Successfully Wean From Breastfeeding
Did you weigh the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula before your baby was born? I would love to know in the comments below!