It’s one of the biggest questions soon-to-be mothers ask: Is breastfeeding better than bottle feeding?
August 1-7, 2019, is World Breastfeeding Week. The goal of World Breastfeeding Week is to encourage mothers around the world to breastfeed their infants.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), increased levels of breastfeeding could save more than 800,000 lives per year.
Since the WHO promotes breastfeeding, that must mean it’s better than bottle feeding, right? Not necessarily. The way a woman feeds her baby comes down to what’s best for both the mother and the baby.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Then, we’ll wrap up with some tips on how to decide which option is best for you and your infant.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has a wide variety of benefits for both the mother and the baby. Here are some of the most common benefits.
Health of the Infant
There are many ways that breastfeeding helps the health of the baby, including decreased risk of:
- Ear infections
- Respiratory infections
- Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Health of the Mother
Breastfeeding has a variety of benefits for the mother, too, including a lowered risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Additional Benefits of Breastfeeding
Some other benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Cheaper than formula
- Better bonding between mother and baby
- Infants digest breastmilk better than formula
- Infants receive antibodies from their mother’s milk
- Always ready with no preparation time required
Difficulties of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding isn’t right for everybody, however. There are some difficulties associated with breastfeeding, including:
- It’s harder for a partner to help with feedings
- It can be harder to return to work
- Finding places to breastfeed in public can be challenging
- Some medications pass into the breastmilk
- Latch-on pain
Benefits of Bottle Feeding
Bottle feeding does have some benefits compared to breastfeeding, including:
- It’s easier for other people to feed the baby
- It’s nutritionally complete (breastmilk lacks enough vitamin D and requires a supplement)
- Babies digest formula slower than breastmilk and need to be fed less often
- Mother can eat and drink what she wants and take necessary medication
- Some women are unable to breastfeed for various reasons
Difficulties of Bottle Feeding
Bottle feeding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here are some difficulties with bottle feeding:
- Formula takes time to prepare (while the baby is crying)
- You must plan ahead to make sure you don’t run out
- Formula is expensive
- Babies won’t get immunity from their mother
- Formula doesn’t have the same complexity of breastmilk
- Formula can cause more gas and constipation than breastmilk
Is Breastfeeding Better than Bottle Feeding?
In the end, whether or not to breastfeed is a deeply personal decision. While there are plenty of benefits to breastfeeding, there are downsides that can make life harder for new moms.
This is especially true since pediatricians recommend that you solely breastfeed until the infant is 6 months old. Then, you should supplement breastfeeding with solid food until the baby is at least a year old. If possible, it’s best to offer breastmilk until a child reaches at least 2 years of age.
Many health organizations consider breastfeeding to be better than bottle feeding. However, “fed is best,” and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you choose to bottle feed. Bottle feeding is just as acceptable as breastfeeding.
Hopefully, we’ve given you enough information to help decide whether or not to breastfeed your infant. You can always talk to one of our trusted doctors by making an appointment any time.