Infant Feeding: Breast or Bottle?
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Infant Feeding: Breast or Bottle?

Your due date is fast approaching. Have you decided which feeding method would be the best for you and your baby? Read on to compare the two…


Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby

breastfeeding and travel imageProper nourishment. Breast milk contains all the nourishment that babies need during their first several months of life. One possible exception is vitamin D. Breast milk is low in vitamin D; however, a baby's need for this supplement depends on skin tone and exposure to sunlight. Ask your pediatrician about your baby's needs.

Allergy protection. No babies are allergic to their mother's milk, but may be sensitive to substances in the mother’s diet that are transferred into the breast milk.

Immunity boost. Breast milk contains substances not found in formula that help protect babies from illness; these substances include antibodies, immunoglobulins, active enzymes, and hormones.

Future good health. Compared with bottlefed infants, breastfed infants are less likely to develop:

Breastfeeding may also associated with enhanced brain development.

Easy digestion. Breast milk is easy for babies to digest.

Bonding. The skin-to-skin contact involved in breastfeeding can enhance bonding between mother and baby.

Jaw development. Sucking at the breast promotes good jaw development; it's harder to get milk from the breast than from a bottle.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Mom

Women who breastfeed their babies experience the following health benefits:

  • Less postpartum bleeding
  • More rapid shrinkage of the uterus to prepregnancy size
  • Quicker return to prepregnancy weight, since milk production burns calories
  • Possible reduced risk of breast cancer before menopause (Nursing a baby for at least 3 months may cause protective changes in breast cells.)
  • Possible reduced risk of ovarian cancer
  • Possible reduced risk of hip fractures after menopause

Both parents will likely appreciate the convenience of breastfeeding, including:

  • Breast milk is always available, sterile, and free.
  • There is no formula to buy, measure, and mix.
  • There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize.

Drawbacks of Breastfeeding

Stress for mom. A breastfeeding mom is the sole provider of nutrition for her baby, which can be very demanding and exhausting. However, once a pattern is established, other family members can give mom a break by feeding the baby a bottle of breast milk that has been pumped and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Slow start. Some women have difficulty getting the baby to "latch on" to the breast properly.

Possible pain. Breastfeeding can be painful—sore nipples, clogged milk ducts, mastitis.

If a woman is unsure whether she wants to breastfeed, she can try it for a few weeks and switch if it doesn't work out. Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for the baby. Once bottle feeding is started, though, it is difficult to switch back to the breast.


The Benefits of Bottlefeeding

image for infant eating articleProper nutrition. Commercially prepared formulas (which are regulated by the FDA) supply the appropriate combinations of proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins to meet a baby's nutritional requirements; supplements are not usually necessary.

Bonding. Although there is no skin-to-skin contact, cuddling while feeding can enhance bonding.

Less dependence on mom. Anyone can feed the baby, which makes it easier for women who work or those that cannot or do not want to be the sole provider of their child's nutrition.

The Drawbacks of Bottlefeeding

The possibility of allergy. Cow's milk formulas contain a different type of protein than breast milk, and some infants may be allergic to it or have trouble digesting it. These babies can be given soy milk formula, although some may be allergic to soy protein, too, and would require a hydrolyzed formula.

A lot of preparation. Bottle feeding requires a lot of organization and preparation; parents must be sure to have enough formula on hand and have bottles and nipples clean and ready.

A significant expense. According to the American Medical Association, during the first year of life, the cost of formula can run between $1,000 and $1,500.

Freshness not guaranteed. Formula can go bad, so parents need to check expiration dates and avoid damaged containers.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

National Women's Health Information Center


Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding. Pediatrics. 1997;100:1035-1039.

Last reviewed July 2007 by Kari Kassir, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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