Breastfeeding · Postpartum

Breastmilk vs Formula: What It Means for Mom

Will you be breastfeeding? Or formula feeding? Everyone seems to have an opinion one way or another that looks something like “Every woman should breastfeed because it’s the healthiest for the baby” or “I formula fed my babies and they’re all fine”. I think it’s safe to say that we know breastmilk is best for baby on both a nutrition level and bonding level. There’s really no arguing with that. But what about what’s best for you? There’s not much talk about how each of these might affect you as the recovering mother and the mother that has to carry out the feeding, or at least the bulk of it. So let’s skip what’s best for the baby and put the focus on you for now so you can make a decision with yourself in mind as well.

Pros of Breastfeeding for You:

Helps the uterus contract back to normal size by releasing oxytocin

Oxytocin release also promotes bonding

Burns calories to help you drop excess weight a little faster (about 400-500 calories)

Reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer

Releases prolactin to help you bond with your baby

Some research shows reduction in type 2 diabetes and conditions like hypertensions and CVD

Provides a natural form of contraception by delaying the return of the period **Don’t rely solely on this method though as ovulation occurs prior to the first period showing up. 

Saves money

Easier feedings at night

Convenient, always ready and the perfect temperature

Might make transition to solids easier and less frustrating for you because breastmilk taste changes with what you eat

Keeps doctor sick visits for baby to a minimum as breastmilk provides antibodies


Cons of breastfeeding for you:

Can be exhausting, especially in the first 3 months

May be painful for the first month or 2

Baby might bite down when teething starts

Letdown might occur at embarrassing moments

Breasts may become engorged and painful

Clogged milk ducts are painful, and may become infected (mastitis)

Hard for your partner to bond in this way, unless you pump, means you never get a break

Breastfed babies need to eat more often – newborns eat every 1.5-2 hours for the first few weeks, which can be exhausting and frustrating

There are some dietary/medication restrictions, more if your baby shows signs of tummy troubles or colic

Nursing in public may be uncomfortable, mentally or physically.

Special wardrobe is needed, or at least nursing bras

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Pros of formula feeding for you:

Anyone can feed the baby

Gives you more freedom

Formula fed babies typically need to eat less frequently

You know exactly how much baby is eating

No need for dietary restrictions for you

You have your body back

Your schedule doesn’t have to revolve around feeding times


Cons of formula feeding for you:

Takes longer to prepare bottles and get them to the right temperature

Extra washing and sterilizing all the bottle pieces

Expensive (plus costs of buying bottles)

Possibilities of causing gas or constipation in baby (very frustrating for you, particularly at night)

Need to carry proper equipment when leaving the house

Might receive judgment from others about not breastfeeding

Doesn’t help you lose weight

Might be trial and error finding the right formula/brand (extra expense)

Each method of feeding has its benefits and challenges. When deciding what and how to feed your baby, it’s important to do what’s right for you and your family, whether it’s breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of both. As mothers, we need to understand that we are all just doing our best and that it may look different for each family.

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