Breastfeeding versus Formula Feeding: The Pros and Cons of Each

In the breastfeeding versus formula feeding debate, both sides present valid arguments for the pros, and both sides have their downfalls.

The debate between breastfeeding versus formula feeding has long been a raging one on parenting forums, in mommy playgroups and anywhere else that moms or soon-to-be moms gather. It can get really heated and nasty at times, with one side coming down harshly on the other, often leaving hard and hurt feelings in its wake. It really shouldn’t be this way, as both sides have valid arguments, and both options have pros and cons. New moms and moms-to-be need to look at these pros and cons of breastfeeding versus formula feeding and decide which option is best for them. All others should respect that decision, even if it’s not the choice they would have made.

Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding

Pros

  • Breast milk contains everything your baby needs to grow and thrive in the most ideal composition. While there are some exceptions to this, for the most part, breast milk really is the most complete form of nutrition for your baby.
  • When comparing breastfeeding versus formula feeding, breastfeeding is definitely the less expensive option. In fact, it’s completely free!
  • For moms who have no one to take on night feeding, it can help them get more sleep, since there are no bottles to grab and warm up in the middle of the night. The act of getting out of bed to prepare a bottle completely breaks your sleep cycle and makes it harder to get back to sleep.
  • The antibodies passed to your baby through breast milk may help decrease their chances of developing certain infections.

Cons

  • If you take in too little of certain nutrients, the quality of your breast milk can be compromised, which means your baby will not be getting the best nutrition.
  • On the other hand, taking in too much of certain substances (alcohol, caffeine, mercury in fish) can be dangerous to your baby. Talk to your doctor for a list of foods and substances that you’ll need to avoid.
  • Certain medications can pass into the breast milk and harm your baby. Any medication that passes into your breast milk can be potentially dangerous. Even if a medication is labeled “typically safe,” it is difficult to predict long-term effects until generations have passed.
  • Some women may find breastfeeding uncomfortable and even painful, either physically or psychologically, for many reasons.

Pros and Cons of Formula Feeding

Pros

  • Formula contains all the necessary nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive. Advances in formula over the years have come a long way. It’s still not as ideal as breast milk, but it’s pretty close.
  • Moms can take necessary medications without worrying about they will harm their baby by passing it through to the milk supply.
  • Typically, when it comes to breast feeding versus formula feeding, the latter allows more flexibility, especially for working moms, as she won’t need to express milk for those times she can’t be there, or find a private place to nurse the baby (while all women should be free to nurse in public, not all women feel comfortable with it).
  • Moms don’t have to worry about their diets as much. While everyone should of course try to maintain a healthy diet, those who formula feed have no worries about maintaining the quality of their breast milk. For extremely picky eaters or those with certain special diets, this is a major plus.

Cons

  • Your baby doesn’t receive antibodies from formula, and therefore may not have that added protection against certain viruses. This is typically the number one point against formula in the breastfeeding versus formula feeding debate, and it is a good one. Still, there are many formula-fed babies who rarely ever catch a cold, and there are breast-fed babies who are sick every season. So many other factors come into play when it comes to your child’s immune system.
  • Both formula and the all the supplies for bottle-feeding can get very expensive, especially if your baby will only drink out of a certain type of bottle (babies can be very picky). The average cost of a can of formula can be over $20.
  • Midnight feedings require, at the least, stumbling out of bed to warm up a refrigerated bottle and at the worst, preparing the bottle from scratch, so it can cut in on your sleep time. Even if you’re using a bottle warmer to speed up the process, it’s still a huge pain.
  • Some babies are allergic to certain types of formula, which may require switching brands or types. In some cases, this can significantly add to the overall expense. While you’re trying to figure out the ideal formula, your baby can suffer from gas pains and other digestive issues.

Breastfeeding versus Formula Feeding : Which Side Wins?

Honestly, neither side “wins”, because there is no absolute right or wrong. Both make excellent points about the pros and cons of each option. What it really comes down to is that when it comes to breastfeeding versus formula feeding, the only right decision is the one that works best for you and your child. No woman should be condemned or judged for her decision.

 

45 thoughts on “Breastfeeding versus Formula Feeding: The Pros and Cons of Each”

  1. Great article- just one misconception that I think stops some moms from breastfeeding is the point you made about your diet- You do NOT need to maintain a perfect diet to provide quality milk for your baby, You can drink caffeinated beverages (in moderation), have an occasional drink, eat what you want and STILL provide your baby with the absolute best nutrition. I breastfed my daughter for 19 months 🙂

  2. This is such a good, positive, and encouraging post. I know several women, including myself, who struggled with breastfeeding. All for a variety of reasons too. would we rather have breastfed our babies? Sure! But not everyone can. Thank you for putting this out there!

  3. I have two children and i was able to Breastfeed one. I did not find a lot of difference between the two methods as far as how my children thrived. I did love not having to make bottles in the middle of the night while Breastfeeding.

  4. I agree that no woman should be judged or condemned for their choice. I do think, though, that all the “cons” of breastfeeding are able to be overcome with a little bit of support. There are so many health benefits not just for the baby but for the mom, too!

  5. I was able to breastfeed my 2nd child for just 6 months. My other two, for different reasons, were not able to breastfeed. I as glad for the short time I had with my one child.

  6. What I loved about breastfeeding is that it burns so many calories! It will take an hour of hard cardio to do what breastfeeding did naturally!

  7. Its a personal decision but I say Breastfeeding is best hands down. Formula can be started as soon as the child has teeth in my opinion .. but again its down to personal choice

  8. Very personal decision..but I am very pro breastfeeding for many reasons. I don’t normally comment on things like this though, because there is often such strong opinions on both sides and can get messy 🙂

  9. This is definitely a personal issue. I think breastfeeding is great for both bonding and saves money on formula. But for working moms, it’s a challenge if they have to pump.

  10. Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    No one has the right to tell anyone else they are doing it wrong. It is a very personal decision.

  11. I’m on the side of the breastfeeding, I don’t trust the most of the formula. If somebody doesn’t have enough milk, it’s okay, but some of the mothers simple don’t want to breastfeed their babies, I cannot understand it.

  12. Thank you for providing a post that shows that both sides have positives. As a new mother, I wanted to breastfeed so badly. I did everything I could from drinking water until I thought I would float away, pumping for hours, and taking supplement after supplement, and it just didn’t work out for us. I did hang in there exclusively pumping for 4 months and only providing about 40-50% of my son’s milk. Looking back now, I’m not sure it was worth all of the tears. Enough rambling though, thank you for sharing that either way is really okay! I think more mothers need to hear this!

  13. Lena - @elenka29

    I didn’t have much of a choice – my jugs were empty and even so I suffer through 3 months of it, it was not nearly enough for the baby. And as much as I enjoyed pumping at work 3x/day – formula was way too convenient

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