Breastfeeding Vs Infant Formula: Making an Informed Choice

After nine months of impatient wait you have your baby in your arms. But once your baby is born, the question always arises: "What do I feed my baby?"

Breastfeeding is a natural choice but by no means is it an easy process. The benefits of breastfeeding have been documented time and again in countless research on the topic. Without adequate support, there may be plenty of problems - from maternal anxiety to life-threatening hypernatremic dehydration. Also, breastfeeding proponents express so much of potential harm from formula feeding. However, various medical and socio-cultural situations sometimes come in the way of incorporating exclusive breastfeeding successfully.

Therefore, supplemental formula feeding may still have a place.

In this article, I will try to discuss the pros and cons of Breastfeeding vs Formula feeding that might help you make an informed choice. I personally feel that breastfeeding should always be the first choice. But one may consider formula supplementation if a situation arises like the ones mentioned previously. I will also try to discuss how to know whether your baby is getting enough milk and how to decide if you need to supplement it with infant formula.

What Are The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?

The benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable and are backed by strong research. Several reputed organizations like World Health Organization(WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) etc. recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. Some of the prominent advantages that matter most to parents include:

  • Protection against infection
  • Smarter kid (Higher IQ)
  • Stronger bonding with mother
  • Helps the mother regain prepregnancy figure quicker
  • Decreases the future risk of diabetes and hypertension in baby
  • Decreases the maternal risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Lowers the risk of diabetes in mother
  • Easier to manage and hassle-free.

Despite the long list of benefits, a lot of mothers drop out of exclusive breastfeeding - some by choice and others due to problems faced earlier.

Problems Faced By Breastfeeding Mothers:

The first couple of days after the child is born is a difficult time for breastfeeding. Mothers struggle to recover from the repercussion of childbirth. This is especially true if the mother had undergone a cesarean section or had some instrumentation during delivery. It is quite normal that breast milk takes a couple of days to develop and such problems can prolong this 'waiting' period. The absence of adequate support and obsessive push for breast milk can be harmful to the mother. Not only does this result in undue stress, but it can also potentially result in unrecognized starvation and potential complications. Some of the problems faced by breastfeeding mothers are:

  • Not enough milk
  • A problem in the breastfeeding technique
  • Sore nipple
  • Breast engorgement
  • Clogged ducts
  • Nipple confusion, etc.

Such problems should be picked up early and brought to the notice of your doctor or lactational counselor. If the baby is not getting enough milk, then a transient partial-supplementation with formula may be necessary. It's possible to revert to exclusive breastfeeding once the problem gets sorted or after breastmilk has developed.

How To Recognize Inadequate Lactation?

It is necessary to know about the importance and challenges of breastfeeding before the baby is born. After all, what's essential is that we recognize inadequate lactation and prevent unintended starvation in the baby. The following are indicators that your baby may not be getting enough milk:

  • Less urine output
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Excessive crying & frequent sucking.

However, do not arrive at a conclusion and start supplementing with artificial milk yourself. Always consult your doctor.

When To Choose Formula?

Though breastmilk is the preferred infant food, there may be certain situations where supplementation may be needed.

1. Inadequate breastmilk: Inadequate breastmilk is a very common complaint but is not a truth all the time. In case of true inadequate breastmilk (e.g. decrease in urine, inappropriate weight loss) Formula supplementation may be necessary.

2. To tide over crisis: Formula milk may sometimes be used as a temporary measure to tide over to. This mostly happens when there's an acute crisis of breastmilk. However, more often than not, it is possible to go back to exclusive breastfeeding.

3. Breastfeeding not recommended: Breast milk may not be recommended in certain medical conditions. Mothers with HIV or those on certain medications (antithyroid drugs, lithium etc) are not suggested to breastfeed the baby. Also, those receiving chemotherapy and with certain metabolic diseases (galactosemia, phenylketonuria etc) also require the baby to be fed on special infant formula.

4. Personal preference: Some mothers may choose to feed their baby on formula and not breastfeed. Many a time, such decisions arise out of misinformation or inadequate information. However, some mothers make an informed choice to not breastfeed based on their personal choices. Some working mothers also find it difficult to express or pump out enough milk for the duration for which they are away from their babies. In such situations, they may require to supplement a feed or two with formula.

To conclude

Exclusive breastfeeding is the first choice for feeding your newborn baby. Though it is a natural way, it isn't always the easiest way. Therefore mothers should learn about breastfeeding and the potential difficulties before delivering the baby. This improves success rates of breastfeeding and also helps the mother identify problems accurately and well ahead of time. Always take professional help. Talk to your doctor and lactation counselor about it and clarify your doubts. Use formula as and when necessary after adequate consultation with your pediatrician or lactational counselor. I would strongly recommend you to choose to breastfeed. But be mindful of its problems and seek help as needed. Choose a formula only if you must.

Make the right choice.

Author Bio:

Meghalee Nath is a stay at home mom to a beautiful daughter and a pet parent to a wonderful golden retriever named Boomer. She loves to read and is fond of adventures. She runs a blog which is centered around mothers and stay-at-home moms and devotes her free time to it. She believes in simplicity and maintains that only by simple living can we attain a happier life.

Kristi Cathey

Hi everyone! My name is Kristi Cathey and I’m glad you found your way to my blog. I am a mother of 3 beautiful angels. This blog was created in order to share my personal experiences in baby care and general health care for pregnant women. If you'd like to get in touch with me, please contact me by sending me an email via Welcome to

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments