As a new mom, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of parenting choices in front of you that can play a role in your baby’s future health and development. One important question stands out above the others: should I feed my baby by breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?
It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of both methods before making any decisions. In this blog post, we’ll walk through each option and review each approach so that you feel informed when it comes time to make your choice.
Every mother has to make a decision on how to feed her baby. For some, that choice is easy because of preference or circumstances. For others, it takes a lot of research and discussion with medical professionals before coming to a conclusion.
If you have questions or want more information on either breastfeeding or bottle feeding, reach out to your doctor or a local lactation consultant. Lastly, do not forget to give yourself grace throughout this process
Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience and comes with many benefits, both for the baby and the mother. We have discussed breastfeeding benefits previously, but here is a basic overview:
- Not only does it provide babies with all the nutrients they need to grow and develop healthily, but it also strengthens the bond between mother and child.
- Additionally, breastfeeding can reduce infant mortality rates, even in countries suffering from poverty or malnutrition.
- There is really no risk of contamination of breast milk when the child is directly breastfed, and it’s very low with pumped milk.
- Studies have found that breastfeeding reduces mothers’ risk of ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Your breast milk constantly changes to meet your baby’s needs.
- You can do it anytime, anywhere. If you are directly breastfeeding, you don’t have to worry about bottles, the temperature of the breast milk, etc.
It’s clear that breastfeeding is beneficial on so many levels, not all of which are mentioned here.
Breastfeeding has long been a tradition for mothers all around the world, but like anything else in life, it has its drawbacks that you may consider:
- For some moms, finding the time to fit breastfeeding into their day can prove challenging, as it requires a lot of dedication and extra planning when heading out of the house.
- Although breastfeeding has occurred since the dawn of time, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it. You may get weird looks or rude comments from friends, family, or even strangers. Family members sometimes feel like they are being kept for bonding with the baby (even though there are many ways to bond that don’t have to do with feeding).
- Breastfeeding can be challenging for working parents. While breastfeeding and working can absolutely happen, many find it to be challenging.
- Breastfeeding is often challenging, especially in the beginning. Without proper support and education, it can feel impossible to meet your goals. Fortunately, there are many
- Unless you are feeding pumped milk, you really can’t measure how much your baby is getting and you can rely
- It’s easy to blame yourself/your breast milk if your baby has any issues that could be related in any way to breast milk (even if it isn’t)
Taken together, these cons must be weighed against the many positives of breastfeeding before arriving at an informed decision.
Bottle feeding is a wonderful choice for parents who want to take an active, hands-on role in raising their infant. Here are some of the pros:
- Unlike breastfeeding, it allows mom and dad to evenly split night feedings and other caretaking tasks. If you choose to pump breast milk, you can also do this (though you still need to pump in place of the feed).
- A breastfed baby can experience a variable nutritional intake throughout the day based on feeding times, but with bottle feeding there is more predictability when it comes to the amount of nutrition being taken in by the baby throughout each day.
- It can be easier to leave your baby behind for an extended period of time
All in all, bottle feeding can provide great parent-baby bonding experiences while allowing additional opportunities for equal parenting responsibilities.
Here is an article sharing some of the best bottles for breastfeeding babies
Bottle feeding can seem like a convenient alternative to breastfeeding, but it is important to consider the potential downside before making your decision.
- Bottle feeding replacement formulas can be expensive and require careful preparation in order to avoid digestive upsets and diarrhea, among other issues.
- Improper bottle feeding or supplementing with formula can also lead to undernutrition or obesity.
- If you are using formula, there is a risk of a formula contamination or formula shortages
- There is a lot of prep involved with bottle feeding and you have to. bevery careful with the preparation of bottles. Formula doesn’t last very long after it has been prepared.
- If you are using formula, there are certain nutrients, antibodies, etc. that your child will not get that are only available through breast milk.
- You may miss out on some of the health benefits that come from breastfeeding
Combo Feeding Tips
You may be considering doing a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding- which is great! Just keep a few things in mind to help with avoiding nipple confusion or preference.
You may struggle with a baby who loves the bottle too much. This is often due to the faster flow of the bottle, though there can be various factors.
Here are a few things to try if your baby is refusing the breast:
- Start with the bottle and switch to the breast partway through
- Use a slow-flow nipple and paced bottle feed
- Do skin to skin
- Take a bath together
- Make sure you don’t try when the baby is super hungry
Check out this article if you are trying to get your baby back to the breast – How to Get a Baby To Breastfeed After Bottle Feeding.
Bottle feeding your breastfed baby is more than just filling the bottle with milk and propping it up – in fact, that is a surefire way to make it harder to feed from the breast again.
For the best, most in-depth tips, I recommend reading How to Give a Breastfed Baby a Bottle and Avoid Bottle Preference. Here are a few general guidelines:
- Use a slow-flow nipple with a gradual slope.
- Fill the bottle with about 1-1.25 ounces per hour from the last time your nursed or fed
- Hold the bottle horizontally (parallel to the ground) and keep the nipple about half filled with the milk
- Have your baby sitting up. Side-lying can be appropriate to
- Tap the nipple below the nose and above the upper chin and slide it into the mouth
- Switch sides partway through
- Ensure your baby has a good latch on the nipple and is actively suckling.
- When your baby slows down their suckle, twist the nipple out of their mouth and then offer again after a few minutes to see if your baby wants it again or not.
One of the biggest issues you may encounter when you attempt to feed your breastfed baby a bottle is bottle refusal.
This can be very frustrating, especially if taking a bottle is necessary. In tips for overcoming bottle refusal, I discuss this topic in depth. Here is an overview of the ten tips I share:
- Get baby used to an artificial nipple
- Choose the right nipple
- Let your baby lead the way
- Start with a small amount of milk
- Feed in a relaxed and quiet area
- Make it fun
- Positive Reinforcement
- Try different types of bottles
- Distract the baby
- Try different times of day
- Keep it short and sweet
- Time it right
- Stop if anyone is frustrated
If you are considering using either formula or expressed breastmilk from a bottle, it is worth speaking with medical professionals to ensure you are meeting your child’s nutritional needs without any negative effects.
Parenting is hard, and there are a lot of decisions to make. in the end, you have to do what is best for your baby- and for you. weigh the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs bottle feeding and make the choice that is right for your family. Have you decided whether you will breastfeed or bottle feed? let us know in the comments below!
More Articles You May Enjoy:
- 12 Tips for Overcoming Bottle Refusal in Breastfed Babies
- Two Simple Ways to Scald Breast Milk to Fix High Lipase
- How to Increase Breast Milk Supply Fast: 11 Expert Tips
Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.