Pros and cons of breastfeeding vs formula feeding

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

The debate never quiets down: breastfeeding or formula? And why can't a woman decide for herself? We explain the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding - and those of not breastfeeding. You should decide for yourself what is best for you and your child. Because your baby is only happy when you are doing well.

Advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding

Over 90 percent of women want to breastfeed. This is also best for the first six months of your child's life. But there are also problems with breastfeeding.

Breast milk is healthy. It increases the immune system of the newborn and thus protects against infections and allergies. It is optimally tailored to the needs of the child, so it adapts to the growing need for food during development. The nutrients can be digested easily. With normal bowel movements, constipation or gas are less likely to occur. In addition, palate and jaw development is promoted. 

Breastfeeding is also healthy for the mother, as the hormones promote the regression processes. They help to cope better with stress and reduce the risk of breast cancer.

It is also easier to use because there are no long preparations. Breast milk is available anytime and anywhere at the ideal drinking temperature. It is also cheaper. Breastfeeding will bring you back to your normal weight faster and breastfed children have a lower risk of being overweight later.

For many people, the most important pro-breastfeeding argument is the emotional bond that develops between mother and child through intensive body and eye contact. This is particularly important for mental and physical development in the first few months of life.

In addition, both quickly get to know and understand each other. The voice, breath, and heartbeat become more and more familiar to the child and this allows them to calm down.

Tips on how to store breast milk

You do not need much equipment to store breast milk. The following items are the essentials:

Cooler box with ice packs; nursing pads; storage bottles; fine-meshed strainers or sieves for finer straining (if desired); funnels and droppers, which allow for easy transfer of milk into the storage bottles.

Breast milk can be stored in the freezer compartment for up to three months at a temperature of minus 6 ° C. Keep in mind that you cannot refreeze breast milk once it has been thawed!

When buying an electric breast pump, keep in mind that the more often you use it, the better your chances of breastfeeding success. Do not underestimate yourself too! Your child will benefit if you pump your milk.

How long should you breastfeed?

Breastfeeding should last at least six months. Longer breastfeeding is highly recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) because it provides babies with more nutrition and protection against diseases. Another advantage is that women who breastfeed longer lose weight faster and they also have a lower risk of breast cancer.

Long-term breastfeeding protects against intestinal problems, such as colic or cramps, because breast milk contains substances that neutralize acids in the stomach. Scientists have discovered that long-termed breastfeeding can reduce both acute lymphoblastic leukemia - a blood cancer - and the deadly brain tumor neuroblastoma by up to 40 percent!

Advantages and disadvantages of the formula feeding

There are often many reasons a woman may choose not to breastfeed. But nowadays they are often put under pressure or seen as bad mothers. Every woman should decide for herself. We have a few arguments for and against bottle feeding and ready-made food.

One of the most important points is the desire for (physical) independence of many mothers. In addition, many would like to be able to eat and drink whatever they want again after nine months of pregnancy. In addition, many mothers and fathers fear that the bond between father and child will not become so strong, which they can prevent by feeding with a bottle.

There can be problems with a quick return to work, as she is not always available to take over breastfeeding. With formula feeding, the child can be in the care of another person for longer. This makes families a bit more mobile and flexible. You can give the bottle almost anywhere. You are not dependent on a place of retreat, you just have to have a preparation option.

Of course, there is a risk that the child will not get enough physical and eye contact, which is important for its development. Therefore, as with breastfeeding, you should hold your child in your arms while you give him the bottle.

The close bond between mother and child is created through body and eye contact while feeding. If you do it the same way as when breastfeeding, this bond also arises when feeding with the bottle.

A father can also build this relationship through it. By the way, bottles with a tea teat, which has a particularly small hole, are best suited. In this way, the baby trains the muscles in the mouth that it will need later to learn to speak. 

There are good reasons for breastfeeding - but also for choosing to go with formula feeding. If a woman starts going back to work early, bottle feeding is easier. You can also do this with expressed milk.

In a stressful everyday life, for example with a family with several children, there is often a lack of peace and time for breastfeeding. A change or a compromise between bottle and breastfeeding can be helpful here.

There is a good middle-ground for more independence: keep a supply of expressed breast milk. So you can leave the house without the child, leave the nutrition to your partner, and otherwise include him in this type of connection. If you have problems breastfeeding, you can use formula. If you don't want to stop breastfeeding completely, you can alternate between the two. 

Tips on how to choose the best formula for your baby

Depending on your child's needs, there are different types of formulas available in pharmacies or online that you should know about before giving them to your baby. There are three different categories: milk-based, soy-based and hypoallergenic formulas. Your doctor will advise you on the right formula for your child.

On the market today there are many brands of infant formulas available without a prescription (over-the-counter). However, in some countries, it is recommended that only certain specific products be used for infants up to 12 months of age. Check with your doctor which product is best suited for your baby.

  • Milk-based infant formulas are the most common, available in various forms. It is right for babies who cannot adapt to cow's milk or soy-based products because it causes intestinal difficulties. This formula contains cow's milk proteins and vegetable oils. There are also low-iron versions suitable if the child has problems absorbing iron from food. It does not contain lactose so that babies can digest its components better than those of other types.
  • Soy-based formulas are recommended when a baby has vomiting caused by cow's milk proteins intolerance or sensitivity reactions to them. These formulas have the same composition as milk-based formulas except that they contain soy proteins instead of cow's milk.
  • Hypoallergenic formulas are also based on vegetable oils and include special proteins not found in other types of food for infants. They are recommended when there have been early signs of intolerance to normal infant formula.

What about mixing these 2 methods?

Of course, it is also possible to mix breastfeeding and bottle feeding. This can be advantageous if you want to go shopping with your child in the car or do some work on the computer while he eats his food. A disadvantage may be that the baby gets used very quickly to formula feeding. 

If you are pregnant, take note of the arguments during each phase of pregnancy. If you are aware of what arguments for and against exist when choosing between breast milk or formula milk before birth, this choice will soon seem obvious once you have given birth.

When should you add solid food?

As soon as the child can sit by himself and has mastered the fine motor skills required to eat, you should introduce solid food. This will avoid feeding problems in later life: children whose first solid meals (rice, vegetables, or cereal) were started at 4 months of age were more curious and adventurous with food than those whose first solids were introduced between 9 and 12 months. It also prevents constipation. 

Studies show that if your baby is already used to breast milk or formula during his first year, he (or she ) does well on it during the second year as well such as using pre-cut fruit-and vegetable purees. The same applies to finger foods such as pastry made from wholemeal flour, which can be eaten with all sorts of different sauces or purees. 

If you want to ensure that he does not get too little iron, start adding meat when the child is between 6 and 8 months old. But introducing solids before is also fine so long as breast milk is given regularly. If you are breastfeeding your baby, it is recommended that solid food be added only when the breast milk is no longer sufficient for his needs.

You can do this when your baby tries to grab the spoon while being fed with puree, which means that he already has an interest in trying new tastes during mealtime. And if after one month of age you still have enough breast milk for your child, then keep breastfeeding longer. Only if formula feeding or breastfeeding is not sufficient, do you have to start feeding your child using special purees.

Studies show that babies who are breastfed up to their first birthday are less likely to develop allergies or other related conditions during childhood. Breast milk contains antibodies that help the baby to resist infections and diseases. It is therefore recommended that babies be exclusively breastfed until they are at least 6 months old unless it would harm the mother's health. 

By continuing breastfeeding for another year, you will encourage affectionate behavior in children as well as optimization of their cognitive development. Imagine how much more your child will grow emotionally if he knows about love now! Also, breastfeeding helps prevent premenstrual syndrome symptoms in women because it reduces the level of female hormones in the blood.

Pediatricians recommendations

If you do not want to or can't breastfeed your baby, using formula milk is an alternative. This has proven to be a good option for children who may develop allergies due to the mother's diet (e.g., lactose) and also for premature babies (when breastfeeding is often not possible at first).

There are many reasons why women may not want to breastfeed their children. These include having multiple children, returning to work early, lack of time and privacy, and even pressure from family members and friends.

Many would like to be able to eat and drink whatever they want again after nine months of pregnancy and resenting that ability being taken away from them. Others feel as though they will build no strong bond with their child if the only way they interact is via a bottle.

In spite of all these reservations, most physicians recommend breastfeeding for numerous reasons. Breast milk offers the baby protection from allergies and infections that would otherwise be acquired through exposure to outside sources.

Additionally, breastfed babies have a decreased risk of obesity and diabetes as adults. In addition to this clinical data, many mothers enjoy breastfeeding their children because it is convenient and feels natural - something that may not be true with formula feeding.    

Concluding Remarks

If you are having problems breastfeeding your child or simply don't want to do it anymore, you can use formula as an alternative. This is often recommended by pediatricians as an option for those with allergies or those who simply cannot breastfeed.