Breastmilk is undoubtedly the best source of nutrition for a child. But it may not be possible for every mom to breastfeed due to several reasons, such as underlying medical condition, lifestyle, or work commitments. In such scenarios, infant formula provides a great and healthy alternative that gives all the essential nutrients required for a child's development. However, the decision to formula feed or breastfeed the baby is one's personal preference. In this article on breastfeeding vs formula feeding, we list out some important facts about these two ways of feeding, the benefits of breastfeeding, and the benefits of formula feeding. "Are formula fed babies healthy" is also a major concern of formula feeding moms that we try and address here. So if you are juggling between which to opt for, this article on breastfeeding vs formula feeding will surely help you make the right choice for you and your child.
Do check out our article on “All About Formula Feeding - The Best Formula Milk in India” which would answer all your queries pertaining to formula feeding and lists the best formula milk that is high in nutrients and serves the baby’s growing needs.
The Breastfeeding Side - Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk is a nature's miracle that's tailor-made for your baby. As your baby grows, its composition changes too according to the baby's requirements. It has just the right amount of nutrients that your baby needs to grow and be healthy. We all are well versed with this fact today that babies should be exclusively breastfed till 6 months of age. Here are the benefits of breastfeeding:
- Free: Breast milk is inexpensive and super convenient. A mother can feed the baby as and when required. No extra supplies such as feeding bottles are needed. The formula is expensive and not everyone can afford it.
- Bonding: It develops a bond between the mother and the baby. The hormones you release while breastfeeding and your skin contact will give that required warmth to the baby. It also helps in improving the emotional connection between a mom and a baby.
- Boosts Immunity: The antibodies and growth enzymes in breast milk develop a baby’s immunity and help it fight sickness. This improves the baby’s overall health. The formula has no antibodies and can never replicate breastmilk completely. And it is the major concern in weighingthe pros of breastfeeding vs formula feeding.
- Reduces Picky-eating: Your baby gets the taste of all types of foods you eat while breastfeeding. This results in babies who are not picky eaters as they are adjusted to different tastes already.
- Weight Loss for Moms: Breastfeeding helps moms to lose weight easily and fast post-delivery. Breast milk production burns calories and this helps moms to get fit sooner.
- Reduced Disease Risk to Moms: It also lowers the chances of certain diseases in women who breastfeed. Research shows that breastfeeding mothers have reduced chances of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
- Convenience: No preparation and cleaning are involved in case you are breastfeeding. You don't have to worry about the sterilization of the feeding equipment as in case with formula feeding.
- Ease of Digestion: Breastmilk is easily digestible by the baby. Its light composition is best for a baby's little tummy.
When to Choose Formula?
Breastfeeding for some women may be a complicated task. There are certain situations when a mother is unable to breastfeed, such as,
- Breastfeeding for some moms is painful due to certainmedical conditions such as mastitis (infection accompanied with inflammation in the breast tissue), sore nipples, thrush, or clogged milk ducts. Breastfeeding is even unsafe in case a mother is undergoing some medical treatment like chemotherapy or is on certain medications.
- Some women may experience latch-on pain which may become unbearable and they have to switch to an alternative.
- Pumping is required in case you are going to be away from your baby and your baby is adjusted only to breastmilk. It, no doubt, is going to make your task easier but requires some extra time and effort. You would need to pump out extra milk supply to be always one step ahead of your baby’s feeding schedule.
- Breastfeeding is a never-ending process in the initial days and may make the mother feel tired and stressed. It requires consistent effort and commitment. Breastfed babies even need to be fed more frequently than formula-fed babies.
The Formula Feeding Side - Benefits of Formula Feeding
Formula feeding is the best alternative for mothers who are unable to breastfeed. Most of the commercial formulas are prepared under sterile conditions that are safe for the baby and use a combination of proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats, and sugars. The top benefits of formula feeding are:
- Supplemented with Vitamin D: Breastmilk does not pass Vitamin D while formula milk is already supplemented with this essential vitamin. So in case you are breastfeeding, you need to give an additional Vitamin D supplement to the baby which is not required while feeding formula.
- Flexibility: Formula can be prepared anywhere anytime. So, if you are a kind of mom who has to stay outside of the house most of the time, formula feeding is super convenient for you.
- No Thinking about Diet: If your baby is allergic to certain foods, you have to be careful about your diet. Everything that you consume is passed to the baby through breastmilk. For instance, if a baby has milk sensitivity, a mother has to stop consumption of all types of dairy products and breastfeeding may not be a possible solution.
- Convenience: Formula feeding does not require any other essentials such as nursing bras, or breast pumps to express milk. You just need some warm water for formula preparation and you are good to go!
- Family Support:A formula-feeding newborn can be fed by anyone in the family, a father, a grandparent, or even the care taker. It is not necessarily being the mom every time. Hence, it can take a little burden off the new mother.
- Public Feeding: Formula feeding can be done publicly. You don’t have to worry about a secluded place to breastfeed your baby or things to cover up.
- Keeps the Baby Full for Long Time:Formula also keeps the baby full for a long time and is not required to be given as frequently as breast milk. It increases the time between feedings and is a viable option to consider especially for night feeding when both the baby and the mother need rest.
- Control on Intake: You have full control over the amount of feed you are giving to the baby. It is visible to you and you can be assured of the baby’s diet.
Mothers, today, even opt for combination feeding. It involves feeding both formula and breast milk. In case the mother’s milk supply is low or she is not available, the baby can be served formula to keep its tummy full.
Are Formula Fed Babies Healthy?
A formula feeding newborn is as healthy as a breastfed baby. The modern baby formula options are wholesome and serve as the perfect foods for infants. It is the healthiest alternative to breastfeeding available today. There is nothing wrong in case a baby is fed well, is happy, and gaining normal weight. However, there are common myths related to baby formula that need to go away.
- It is usually assumed that formula fed babies are obese.Obesity, however, is a parenting issue. What you all need to observe are the careful feeding practices under your doctor’s consultation.
- Formula feeding is sometimes considered an inferior option to breastfeeding. Well, modern formulas meet the nutritional requirements of growing babies. They are enriched with proteins, vitamins, and minerals to ensure adequate growth.
- It is also stated that breastfed babies are smarter than formula-fed babies. However, studies have proved that there is no significant difference between the two kinds of babies.
- Formula feeding, also, does not reduce your chances of bonding with the baby. You can still have that skin-to-skin contact with the baby differently and give that required warmth for its emotional development.
Breastfeeding vs formula feeding is one of the biggest decisions any new mom has to take. However, you should do what’s best for you and your baby. Being stressed for not being able to breastfeed is not worth for your health as a mom. If breastfeeding is not happening to you, feeding formula is a healthy alternative that you can choose and is safe and normal. It will provide the essential nutrients that babies need to grow. You can even seek the help of a lactation consultant in case you are having a tough time deciding and only wish to breastfeed. It’s your body, it’s your baby. You, as a mother, know what’s best for your little one. Take your decision. Always remember, a happy mom means a happy baby. So, be happy and keep your little one happy too!