Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding: Advantages & Disadvantages

Congratulations! You have just found out you are expecting a little addition to the family. Whether you are in the early stages, you have already found out the gender, or you’re ready to pop any day now, you are probably making a registry containing everything you need to take care of your little one.

You are deciding on how to decorate the nursery, picking out onesies, and stocking up on diapers. Finally, to complete your shopping list, you are deciding on…bottles? Formula? Nursing cape and pads? Breast pump?

How are you going to feed this little person?


breastfeeding vs formula feeding advantages disadvantages

How Do You Decide?

Deciding between formula and breastmilk can be difficult. You may have people who swear by one and curse the other, and your doctor will have an opinion as well. No matter what you choose to do no doubt you will be judged by many as well. 

Everyone has an opinion but the decision is yours to make. All you can do is discover the facts and make a decision. We hope that this article will help you along your way.

So, what is the difference between breastfeeding and formula-feeding?

Cost of Formula Vs Breastfeeding

Cost can be a sole deciding factor for the budget-conscious mom, like myself. The monetary hit to the bank account is drastically different between breast and bottle.

Breastfeeding is, for the most part, free! Your milk source is attached to you, and you simply restock with time and proper nutrition.

While nursing covers and scarfs are nice to have if you are in public or have guests visiting. You can substitute this with a simple blanket does just as well if you want to save a few more bucks.

The biggest cost with breastfeeding is for those moms who decide to pump (with the cost of the pump, storage bags, and bottles), but, most of the time, if you contact your insurance company, they can walk you through how to get one for free through them.

Formula-feeding can be costly. Not every baby eats the same amount. You may be like me and have a 10-pound baby who wants to eat every hour; you may have a 6-pound baby who eats every 2-4 hours.

Regardless of how much your baby eats, you will eventually run out of formula and need to restock (but, of course, the more your baby eats the faster you will need to purchase more).

With the cost of formula and bottles, this option tends to be pricier. At an average of $0.19 per ounce, you can look at spending around $1,734 in a year on formula for an average baby (1).

Sharing the Feeding Duties

Let’s face it: you’re not going to get a solid night’s sleep for at least a few years after your little one arrives. Babies still need to eat multiple times a night, and with as tired as you will be, you will be looking for a break and some help during those midnight (and 2 AM, and 4 AM) snack calls.

When it comes to breastfeeding, unless you are on a regular pumping schedule, there’s not much dad can do during the night to help you with feeding the baby except to let you stay in bed and bring the baby to you.

You are the food source, and it’s up to you alone to feed the baby.

With formula, it’s easy for you and dad to take turns in the night making bottles for the baby when they wake up hungry.

You can maybe even sneak in a nap during the day if you have someone helping you out.

Feeding your Baby on the Road

When you’re preparing for an outing with a young baby, there are a lot of things you need to remember to bring: plenty of diapers and wipes, an extra outfit in case there’s a blow-out, toys, blanket, pacifier, and the list goes on.

You end up loaded down with a heavy diaper bag, and you end up spending as much time prepping as you do traveling to your destination.

Breastfeeding allows you to take one thing off your packing list. If you’re going with a baby, you don’t have anything to prepare. You have the food source on you at all times, and it’s one less thing to carry.

Preparing to go out with a formula-fed baby means packing enough formula for the trip as well as bottles. You need to think about where you can heat up the milk, and if there’s nowhere to clean the bottles, you need to bring enough to last the duration of your time away.

bottle feed vs breastfeeding

Nutritional Benefits of Breastfeeding Vs Formula

As a mother, the importance you place on your child’s health is at the top of your list, and your baby’s health begins with what she eats.

Many will tell you that “breast is best,” especially when it comes to a baby’s nutrition. Breast milk provides antibodies that can help babies fight off and prevent various illnesses, and may reduce the risk of developing asthma, diabetes, and high cholesterol later in life.

It is more easily digested, keeping your baby comfortable by reducing constipation and gas.

Cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have even been believed to be reduced in breastfed babies (2).

Formula-feeding has its advantages in the way of nutrition as well. CA commercially prepared formula can provide some vitamins that breastfed babies would need to get from supplements.

However, there are no antibodies that are present in breastmilk, and, despite many advances over the years, there has yet to be a formula manufactured that can duplicate the complexity of breast milk (3).

Physical Contact for Feeding

You want what’s best for your baby, but when it comes to your choice in how to feed your child, you want to know what’s best for you as well. You want to feel comfortable, both physically and environmentally.

There’s no denying that the first month of breastfeeding is very painful. With your little one’s powerful sucking action, you are in for a few weeks of bleeding, scabbing, ointment, and then a repeat of the same cycle when they’re ready to eat again.

While you will eventually heal, and begin to nurse more comfortably, you will still need to figure out how to be comfortable in public.

The great debate of public breastfeeding can make a mother feel uncomfortable being out in public with her baby for fear of possibly offending a nearby stranger.

Besides the initial engorgement associated with your milk coming in (which happens regardless of your choice in feeding as it is your body’s natural preparation for your baby, and it will go away once your body realizes the baby doesn’t need it), there is no physical discomfort that comes with formula-feeding.

It’s easy to feed your baby in public as well since no one gives a baby with a bottle any unwarranted trouble.

Having Supply When Working

The choice between breast and formula is of little consequence to the stay-at-home mom, but if you are working, you begin motherhood thinking about how to prepare for returning to work.

As if leaving your new little treasure wasn’t hard enough, you need to consider the drastic differences between your feeding options, and those may end up making the decision for you.

Figuring out your baby’s feeding schedule takes time and can be difficult to pinpoint, especially in the first few months. If you are a breastfeeding, working mother, trying to figure out and fit in an appropriate pumping schedule in addition to breastfeeding can be exhausting.

Pumping takes time and patience, and it can be difficult to figure out how and when to pump between baby’s feedings to ensure your little one is getting enough to eat and that you are prepared once maternity leave is over.

Many working mothers may opt for formula right off the bat for this very reason. There’s no pumping, no preparation, and it’s one less thing for you to be thinking about. Your mind (and time) will be freed up to spend even more time with your little snuggle bug before it’s time to go back to work.

Immunity Boosting Breastmilk

Every mom dreads the first time their baby gets sick. We can almost become a hypochondriac, wondering if every little cough, sneeze, and sweat could be a cold, or something worse.

The sight of other sick children and adults puts us into protection mode, and we begin to wish we could keep our little one in a plastic bubble to keep her safe. But there will come a day where illness is a reality and we find a way to get through.

Breast milk has been shown to have great advantages for a baby’s immune system. It can adapt to what baby needs, whether she or mom is sick. The antibodies created when mom is sick are also in breastmilk, helping baby to protect herself from getting the virus.

If the baby is the one that’s sick, the breast milk adapts to the baby’s needs as it detects the illness in the baby’s saliva. Breastfeeding has been shown to be the best option for your baby to protect against various viruses (4).

Which is Better?

There is no option that is overall, unanimously better. There are benefits and disadvantages to both breastfeeding and formula-feeding. The choice is yours. If you are physically capable of either, your lifestyle, and your baby, will help you decide.

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