Deciding to Breastfeed or Formula Feed: Making the Best Choice for You and Your Baby

Sep 27, 2023 | Baby, Breastfeeding

Mother choosing to breastfeed newborn over formula feeding

The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your newborn is a significant choice that many expectant parents grapple with. Each method has its own set of advantages and considerations, and the decision ultimately depends on what aligns best with your lifestyle, health needs, and personal preferences. In this article, we’ll explore the key factors to consider when making this important decision and at Lactation Room, our team of IBCLCs understands this is a personal choice and is here to support you along your journey.

Benefits of Breastfeeding:

Breast milk is often touted as nature’s perfect food for infants, and for good reason. It contains a unique blend of nutrients, antibodies, and hormones that support a baby’s optimal growth and development1. Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include:

  1. Nutritional Superiority: Breast milk is rich in essential nutrients that are easily digestible and tailored to the baby’s changing needs. It contains antibodies that boost the baby’s immune system, protecting against infections and illnesses2.
  2. Bonding: Breastfeeding fosters a strong emotional bond between mother and baby. The skin-to-skin contact and close proximity during feeding promote a deep connection that can have lasting effects3.
  3. Digestive Health: Breast milk is gentle on a baby’s developing digestive system, reducing the likelihood of constipation, gas, and other digestive issues4.
  4. Long-term Health Benefits: Studies suggest that breastfed babies have a reduced risk of certain health conditions, such as allergies, asthma, obesity, and even some chronic diseases later in life5.

Considerations for Breastfeeding:

While breastfeeding offers numerous advantages, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges:

  1. Time and Demands: Breastfeeding requires a significant time commitment, especially in the first few months. Mothers need to be available for frequent feedings, which can sometimes feel overwhelming.
  2. Physical Discomfort: Some mothers experience sore nipples, engorgement, and other physical discomforts during the initial days of breastfeeding. These issues often subside and improve with the support and guidance from your IBCLC.
  3. Public Feeding: Breastfeeding in public can sometimes be met with discomfort so determining your level of comfort with feeding your baby in an open setting is important before you have planned outings. Making a feeding plan can reduce worry.
  4. Mother’s Health: Certain health conditions or medications may make breastfeeding challenging or unsafe for the mother and baby. It’s crucial to consult with an IBCLC prenatally before making a decision.

Advantages of Formula Feeding:

Formula feeding provides an alternative that can be a practical choice for some families. Some of the benefits of formula feeding include:

  1. Flexibility: Formula feeding allows both parents to share the feeding responsibilities, providing more flexibility in the daily routine.
  2. Quantifiable Intake: With formula feeding, you can easily monitor the amount of milk your baby is consuming, which can be reassuring for parents when the baby needs to have intake volume monitored.
  3. Scheduled Feedings: Formula-fed babies often have more predictable feeding schedules, which can make planning outings and routines more manageable but remember babies are on their own timeclock and feedings cannot always be scheduled.

Considerations for Formula Feeding:

While formula feeding offers its own set of advantages, there are also considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Nutritional Differences: While infant formulas are designed to mimic the composition of breast milk, they lack some of the unique components that provide natural immunity and other health benefits.
  2. Cost and Preparation: Formula feeding can be more expensive over time due to the ongoing cost of formula. Additionally, formula preparation requires careful attention to hygiene and measuring to ensure proper nutrition.
  3. Allergies and Digestion: Some babies might have trouble digesting certain formulas or could be allergic to the proteins they contain.
  4. Bonding: While formula feeding still allows for bonding between caregiver and baby, the physical closeness and direct skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding may not be as pronounced.

Making the Decision:

Ultimately, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed should be based on what works best for you, your baby, and your family’s circumstances. It’s important to be well-informed about both options and to consider your personal health, lifestyle, and emotional well-being. Many mothers find that a combination of both methods can be a suitable compromise that meets their needs and their baby’s needs.

Before making a decision, consult with a Lactation Room IBCLC, and they can provide valuable insight and guidance. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and what matters most is the well-being and happiness of both you and your baby. Whatever choice you make, feeding time is an opportunity to bond, nourish, and cherish the special moments with your baby.

References:
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.
2. Hanson, L. A. (2004). Breastfeeding provides passive and likely long-lasting active immunity. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 93(Supplement 1), S33-S37. 
3. Feldman, R. (2007). Parent–infant synchrony and the construction of shared timing; physiological precursors, developmental outcomes, and risk conditions. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(3-4), 329-354. 
4. Lucas, A., & Cole, T. J. (1990). Breast milk and neonatal necrotising enterocolitis. The Lancet, 336(8730), 1519-1523.
5. Victora, C. G., Bahl, R., Barros, A. J., França, G. V., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., … & Rollins, N. C. (2016). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, 387(10017), 475-490.

Sarah Early - MSN, APRN-FNP-C, IBCLC

Sarah Early, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, IBCLC, is a clinically trained Integrative and Functional Health Family Nurse Practitioner who specializes in women's health and is the owner of Peony Women's Integrative Health and Lactation Room. She graduated with a Master's in Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner with high distinction and is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Sarah has been a practicing International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2011 and opened Lactation Room in 2014. Lactation Room specializes in supporting parent/baby dyads who are struggling with infant oral dysfunction, feeding difficulties, and tongue-and-lip ties. They earned the prestigious IBCLE Care Award from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®) and International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) have recognized Lactation Room for excellence in lactation care. She is a member of ILCA, USLCA, MBC, AANP, IATP, and MBC.