Choosing how to feed your baby is a big decision and one that comes with a lot of opinions. Breastfeeding vs. formula? Is breastmilk or formula better? Can you mix breastmilk and formula? While there isn’t one black and white answer there IS a right answer for what works best for YOU and your family. Let’s look at the benefits of each, how it’s possible to use both and more info to make the best decision for you.
Benefits of Breastmilk
Breastmilk is the preferential source of nutrition for babies when it is healthy and possible for the mom to breastfeed. Breastmilk is unmatched in its ability to adapt to your baby’s needs and provide immune-boosting and protective factors.
Superpowers of Breastmilk:
Other unique qualities of breastmilk are that the taste will change with what the mother eats, exposing the baby to a wider variety of flavors. If the mother eats veggies her milk will have a slightly bitter taste, which has been shown to translate into the baby enjoying more vegetables than their formula-fed peers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for all infants to 6 months of age, to the age of 2 years old and beyond. Breastfeeding is the top recommendation when possible for all infants.
Lifestyle Benefits of Breastfeeding
Apart from providing nourishment for your baby, breastfeeding can have other lifestyle factors as well.
Cons of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding does have its drawbacks as well.
- Other parent cannot help feed (unless the mother pumps)
- Night feedings are all done by the mother (again unless they’ve pumped ahead of time, but this can cause a supply dip and be uncomfortable)
- Harder for the mother to be away from the baby for more than a few hours
- Learning how to breastfeed can be a learning curve and it takes time for both baby and the mother to be efficient and comfortable
- A mother must be aware of her dietary choices that may affect her milk
What is Formula Made of?
Formula is intended to emulate breast milk in the closest form possible. While the quality and source may vary between brands, the main components are lactose (milk sugar), proteins, fats (from vegetable oils) and amino acids, enzymes & vitamins. While formula cannot emulate the adaptability or high variety of proteins & sugars in breastmilk, for example, it does contain what your baby needs for nourishment. All formulas must meet the FDA standards but just like with food, quality can still vary widely.
Formula is generally made from cow dairy but since many babies have dairy sensitivities there are also soy and goat options available.
Formula comes in 3 forms:
- Powder (which you mix with water)
- Concentrated liquid (which must also be mixed with water)
Benefits of Formula
Formula allows any caregiver to feed the baby at any given time, without the hassle of the mother pumping.
Benefits of Using Formula:
Cons of Formula
- The biggest negative with formula is the cost which is an average of just below $2000 for the first year.
- Many mothers fear that they won’t have the same bond with baby if they do not breastfeed and this is not necessarily true.
- Formula will, unfortunately, never be able to match the complexity of nature (for example, this study found over 1600 unique proteins in breastmilk)
- Lose immune & microbiome support that comes with breast milk
How long does a baby need formula for? It is recommended to continue with formula until one year, and then switch to whole milk.
Supplementing with Formula
For those that need it, there may be a middle road if you encounter challenges with breastfeeding and/or weight gain. It’s common to be worried about milk supply and a true undersupply is rare and supplementing with formula in these cases will cause more of a problem. However, if you have a diagnosed undersupply or other feeding issues, supplementing with formula can be a great middle ground. You can mix breastmilk and formula by doing one or more feedings a day with formula while the rest of the baby’s nutrition is from breastmilk. Breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing, the baby will receive benefits from any amount of breastmilk given. It’s important to consult a qualified Lactation Consultant or other health care professional to discuss your unique case and how supplementing with formula would look for you and your baby.
In cases where there are no breastfeeding issues, mothers may want to feed one bottle of formula a day so that another caregiver can feed the baby when they don’t wish to express milk. It can seem appealing to be able to alternate between formula and breastmilk but keep in mind that any amount of formula used will decrease the mother's supply so once you start supplementing, it can be challenging to go back.
With all of this information, we hope that the decision about what to feed your baby has been made easier. We know you want to feed your baby the best nutrition possible. Choosing breastmilk whenever possible has many advantages for both the mother and baby but what’s most important is a healthy mom. If breastfeeding is not possible or is interfering with mental health in any way, a healthy mom is what your baby needs over anything else. Thankfully, today we have many options to support successful breastfeeding and overall, to help your baby thrive.
If you like this post about breastfeeding, we think you'll like these:
- 7 Important Nutrients for Lactation
- Can Taking a Lactation Supplement Cause an Oversupply?
- 7 Breastfeeding Myths You Shouldn't Believe
- Top 10 Must-Haves for Nursing and Bottle Feeding Moms
- Answers to 3 Commonly Asked Questions about Breastfeeding
Don't forget to try our Majka Nourishing Lactation Protein Powder or our Majka Lactation Booster to help with your milk supply and general health while breastfeeding! Majka's products are designed to nourish YOU and help you feel confident postpartum, no matter if you choose to breastfeed or feed with formula.