Cute adorable baby girl holding nursing bottle and drinking formula milk. First food for babies. New born child, sitting in chair of domestic kitchen. Healthy babies and bottle-feeding concept

Breast Feeding vs Formula: What You Need to Know

From the moment you get pregnant you are bombarded with new “suggestions.”  Everyone-literally everyone-has opinions on how you should approach pregnancy, how you should approach your child’s birth, and of course, how you should approach feeding your new baby.  Before you even hit the second trimester you can feel “fed up” with all the feeding information (read: unsolicited agenda-based opinions from companies, friends, family members, men who have never had a baby and will likely never procreate).  It’s enough to make you rethink getting pregnant in the first place…but alas, it’s not that simple.  Baby is on the way, and you, and only you, get her feeding rights. 

So how do you make an informed decision about how to feed your baby best?  Ultimately, we all just want our babies to be pass out in our laps, happily milk drunk and satisfied.  Whether that means popping a bottle or a boob in their mouth is completely up to you.  If you’re a little confused about the whole “breast feeding vs. formula” debate, here are some things to help you figure it out. 

What Ways Can I Feed My Baby?

“It’s poison, honestly.” Your friend means well, but her constant formula smack-talk is really a downer and makes you fearful about using it if breast feeding turns out to be a non-viable option for you.  In fact, you’ve developed an irrational fear toward the canisters of formula samples you’ve received in the mail.  This is how stigmas are created, and we’re here to tell you, you don’t need to listen to them. 

Both formula feeding and breast feeding are completely safe, viable, and life-giving options for a baby.  Although formula doesn’t enjoy the same virtue signaling on social media that breast feeding does, it is still a safe, effective, and a wonderful way to feed your baby.  While many mothers feel that breast feeding is the “best” way to feed their newborn, there are numerous reasons why it sometimes just doesn’t work-and we mean really-it just doesn’t work, and no amount of meetings with the lactation consultant is going to fix it.  Perhaps the mom develops a breast infection, the baby never can seem to latch, the mom doesn’t enjoy breastfeeding-the reasons why it sometimes goes south are endless.  That’s not to say that it can’t be wonderful-many times it absolutely is, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 

Do I have to Pick Breast Feeding or Formula?

No.  You don’t have to pick either one.  You can pick both, or one, or the other; or one for a little while and then the other.  Although you’ve probably been told that introducing formula or a bottle to a breastfed baby can ruin the breastfeeding experience, this simply is not true.  Babies don’t typically prefer one over the other; they prefer to be fed until they are full.  They can definitely reject certain types of nipples, bottles, or certain temperatures of formula, but statistically, they just like to drink milk. 

Feeding your baby isn’t a destination, it is a journey.  There are lots of twists and turns along the way.  What works perfectly the first three weeks may not work the next six months.  It is absolutely okay to intertwine your feeding methods if you so desire. 

Do I need to Adhere to a Special Diet to Breast Feed?

Maybe.  If your baby has reflux or develops an allergy, your doctor may decide you should go on an elimination diet to determine if something in your breastmilk is causing the allergy.  You should know up front that if it is determined that your baby is allergic to dairy and the thought of eliminating dairy from your diet is unimaginable to you, you do not have to eliminate dairy from your diet and continue to breast feed.  You can, but you don’t have to.  You can switch to a high quality formula with safe, non-dairy ingredients and either way, your baby will be happy and well fed. 

Is All Formula Safe?

This feels like a trick question.  Formula is heavily governed by the FDA, which means, yes, it is safe for infant consumption and meets all dietary guidelines for infant children.  However, not all formulas are created equally, and some formulas contain ingredients that, while safe, are less than desirable.  For instance, a popular ingredient is “corn syrup solids.”  While consuming formula that contains corn syrup solids isn’t going to cause your baby to grow a second head, it’s maybe not the absolute best formula you can offer them compared to organic baby formula. All formula will contain a carbohydrate component, but that component can come from other sources, like lactose. 

Feeding your newborn is not a one-size-fits-all event.  It’s an individual journey made with you and your new child.  The absolute best way to feed your baby is the method that keeps her satisfied and you sane.  No other option is correct.