Breastfeeding versus Bottle Feeding
This page is designed to help undecided parents on which method of feeding their babies would work best for their family.
Bottle Feeding, Breast Feeding... Or Pumping?
There are a few methods of feeding your newborn baby. With exceptions aside, such as baby having a nasogastric tube, cleft pallet, or other issues that would cause concern with feeding; we will be looking at methods for babies who are ready to feed without the assistance of extra devices or medical interventions.
The three main ways of feeding your newborn include formula feeding with a bottle, breastfeeding or nursing at the breast, and pumping breastmilk to feed your baby with a bottle. You can do any of these individually, or you can do all at once with supplemental feedings or "topping up," which is a way of saying simply offering baby more with a bottle after you have finished nursing the infant at the breast.
You will often hear that breast is best and this is true for nutritional value, bonding, and so forth, but breast is not always best for the family as a whole. Sometimes there are physical issues with either mom or baby that make it difficult to establish a breastfeeding relationship. Sometimes, mom simply does not want to breastfeed or finds the demands too difficult to cope with. That is just fine. As long as you discover a method of feeding your baby that works, you are doing an outstanding job!
Breastfeeding can be very difficult to navigate for first time parents. Getting a good latch takes practice for both mom and baby. Fortunately, many hospitals in the USA and Canada have lactation specialists on-site to help you learn what to do. Some hospitals unfortunately do not, but there may be a La Leche League in your area that is there to help support you.
Once you have an established breastfeeding relationship with your baby, it is easier to relax into parenting as you can nurse on demand and not worry about bottles, picking up formula in the middle of the night, and as an added bonus, exclusively breastfed babies have water-soluble bowel movements, making those inevitable explosive poops easier to clean-up.
Downsides to breastfeeding
Mom, you are on call all day and all night for baby. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you are the sole provider for your little gaffer. Dad can't take middle-of-the-night feedings so you can catch up on sleep. Nope, you are on call at all hours of the day and night. As baby bonds with you more strongly and learns your smell, you are also one of few people who will be able to sooth your little one.
The short of it is that you are in a position where it is hard to catch a break or have the work load shared.
Other potential downsides include the potential for mastitis; an infection of the breast, often treated through increased nursing and sometimes antibiotics if it is a bad case. Blocked ducts can also be a cause of concern; also treated through increased nursing and warm compresses. Thrush can be an issue as mom gets it on the breast and nipple while baby gets it in and around the mouth.
Physical ailments aside, you also get the pressure and anxiety that comes with watching your baby gain weight, especially if you are comparing your baby's growth against an older chart that compares baby against formula fed babies, which tend to gain more weight.
If you return to work early, you will be responsible still for pumping enough breastmilk for baby.
Lastly, even if you are breastfeeding, it is recommended that you supplement your baby with vitamin D as well--ask your doctor about this.
Bottle Feeding... Formula
Formula can help afford families a more shared responsibility of baby. Anyone in the family can prepare a bottle and feed the baby at any hour of the day or night. This means that mom isn't always on the hook for those late-night and early morning feeds! Bonus.
Babies that are formula fed tend to gain weight more quickly, which can alleviate some concerns new parents often have over the weight gain of their babies.
When you are going out in public, you don't have to worry about covering up to discretely nurse your baby; you just pull out a bottle of formula and feed your baby without angry glares from other people.
Downsides to bottle feeding with formula
Babies who eat formula tend to have stinker gas and stinker poops that are more difficult to clean up that those of breastfed infants.
It can cost quite a bit of money to feed your baby formula and there might be times where you will have to run to the store in a flash to hopefully get more formula before the stores slam their doors shut at 9:00 PM.
Baby won't get any of the immune-boosting benefits that breastfed babies get.
It might take a few different formula brands for you to discover which one will work best for your baby.
Pumping Breastmilk to Bottle Feed
Let's take a moment to marvel in the women who have done this. Pumping takes a lot of dedication. A lot! Pumping enough milk to make sure baby is well-fed while also producing enough milk without baby at the breast to stimulate the production is amazingly difficult, but has been done by many women.
In doing this, you really get the physical benefits of both worlds for baby--you get the ability to have others feed baby. Baby gets all of the nutrition and immune benefits of breastmilk without needing mom to be right there with baby.
Parents may choose this option when baby just isn't getting the hang of breastfeeding, if mom is struggling with the idea of having baby at the breast, or if latching issues continue for too long.
Downsides to pumping exclusively
It is hard work. It is a full-time job finding time to pump every few hours, keeping bottles clean and ready to go, storing and packing breastmilk, lugging around your pumping system wherever you go, and so forth.
This can be expensive as well. You will need a good quality pump, bottles, storage bags, and so forth.