The decision to breastfeed or formula feed a child is one of the biggest decisions new parents will make. Often times, it is also one of the most stressful decisions new parents will make. Everyone from family and friends to strangers in the grocery store seems to have an opinion on the subject and are more than excited to share it with you (even when they are not asked!). Health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Medical Association (AMA) recommend breastfeeding as the most nutritional choice for infants and advise exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Ultimately, the decision is a highly personal one for most parents. So if you are about to welcome a new baby into your home, here are a few pros and cons of both breastfeeding and formula feeding to help you decide what will be best for your family and lifestyle.
Health Benefits for Baby– Perhaps the number one reason to consider breastfeeding your new baby is the many health benefits it will provide. Breast milk is full of the mother’s antibodies that will help boost the baby’s immune system and help them fight off infections and other medical conditions. Breast milk is often called the ‘perfect food’ for infants because it is easily digested and naturally contains essential vitamins and minerals they will need at each stage in development.
Health Benefits for Mom– Not only is breastfeeding beneficial for babies, it is offers many great health benefits for mom too! Breastfeeding causes a new mom to burn approximately 500 calories a day by simply feeding their baby! When an infant nurses, it causes the uterus to contract and shrink back to its normal size. Meaning, new moms can drop that baby weight and get back to their pre-baby shape more quickly than mom’s who don’t breastfeed.
Time Consuming– Breastfeeding, especially during the first couple of months, can be very time consuming for a new mom. Because the milk is more easily digested, babies are hungrier more quickly than with formula. Meaning, you may find yourself feeding your baby every 2-3 hours if not more frequently. This type of schedule can make doing other tasks and going places pretty difficult.
Restricts Diet– When you are breastfeeding your baby will basically be eating what you eat. So if spicy foods give you indigestion- it will most likely be hard on your baby as well. You have to be careful about how much caffeine and alcohol (you have to wait at least two hours after every drink before breastfeeding) you consume. After having to watch what you eat for 9 months of pregnancy, some moms are just ready to be able to eat whatever they want.
Nutritious Alternative– If breastfeeding is not for you- there are many great brands of infant formula available that are a nutritious alternative to breast milk. Formula is chock full of the same vitamins and minerals that you would find in breast milk. Formula takes a little longer for your baby to digest, meaning they typically stay fuller longer. This is great news for sleep-deprived parents who just need a couple more hours of rest!
Flexibility– Unlike breastfeeding (unless you are pumping), anyone can feed your baby a bottle of infant formula at any time, anywhere. This makes feedings much more convenient and schedules much more flexible. Feeding a great time for bonding with your baby. Formula feeding allows your spouse to experience these sweet moments as well.
Lacks Complexity– One thing that cannot be reproduced in a factory is the mother’s antibodies found in breast milk. These antibodies help your baby ward of infections and are incredibly beneficial during that first year when their immune system is still developing. Breast milk is also incredibly complex in that it changes as the baby’s needs change. The good news is there are different types of formula for different developmental stages, you just have to stay up on where your baby is at and what type they need.
Prep Work– Though formula feeding is much easier on the schedule, it does require quite a bit of prep work beforehand. For example, you have to make sure you always have clean bottles, nipples, and formula on hand. If you run out, you may find yourself with a very hungry and very angry little baby who has not mastered the concept of patience yet!