As a mom who has breastfed, exclusively pumped, and formula fed my babies, I thought it would be helpful to provide what I learned. This post will discuss the differences between breastfeeding vs formula feeding vs pumping to help new moms decide the best feeding option for them.
When my twins were born prematurely, I ended up feeding them by exclusively pumping and supplementing with formula.
Eventually, when the twins were 11 weeks old, I stopped pumping. From that point on they were fed only with formula.
Meanwhile, I had a full term pregnancy with my singleton and I was able to breastfeed him.
When he was 3 months old, I returned to work. Around this time, he was introduced to a diet of mostly breast milk combined with a small amount of formula.
As you can see I have had experience with quite a few different ways of feeding my babies. So, let’s check out the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding vs formula feeding vs pumping.
Advantages Of Breastfeeding
The antibodies in breast milk provide an extra defense against viruses and diseases that your baby is exposed to.
Bonding with baby
The act of nursing provides extra time for a mother to be with her new baby. This time gives an added means for a bond to form between mother and child.
No need to carry feeding gear when going out
Whether you are out running errands or traveling a long distance, you will not to worry about bringing formula, water, and bottles with you.
Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
No one else to help with feedings
When you are exclusively breastfeeding it is very important to establish and maintain your milk supply. You will not be able to get many breaks from feeding your baby. And, even when you do get a break, you will need to pump for any feedings you miss.
Harder to be away from baby
Due to the milk supply issues discussed above, it is difficult to be away from your newborn for more than a few hours. In the beginning babies eat every 1.5-2 hours. It is hard to pump ahead for more than 1-2 feedings at a time.
Baby eats more often
Breastfed babies need to eat more often than formula fed babies. Newborns drinking breast milk typically eat every 1.5-2 hours. While newborns drinking formula eat every 2-3 hours.
Don’t know how much milk baby is getting
Since my twins were bottle fed I always knew how much breast milk or formula they were eating. It was always nice to have that information.
Likely to deal with painful ailments which could include mastitis, nipple pain, breast engorgement, etc.
Almost all nursing moms will have breast engorgement a couple weeks into their breastfeeding journey. It is very painful, but eventually subsides. Some other painful conditions are nipple pain due to poor latching and clogged milk ducts, which sometimes turns into mastitis.
Advantages of Formula Feeding
Longer time between feedings
When using formula your baby will stay full a little bit longer than when drinking breast milk.
Can get help feeding baby from others
Since your baby will use a bottle to eat, you will be able to enlist the help of family and friends when they visit to feed your baby. It’s nice for mom to get a break once in a while.
Dad gets more chances to bond
If your baby is bottle fed, then Dad will get a chance to feed him or her too. It gives mom a break and gives Dad more time with his newborn. More time, means more bonding opportunities. Also, along the same lines, Dad can help with night feedings.
Know exactly how much baby is eating
Bottles have measurements in ounces on the side, so you will know how much your baby has eaten.
Disadvantages Of Formula Feeding
Baby misses out on antibodies provided by breast milk
Since breast milk supplies antibodies that increase your child’s immunity, your baby will miss out on these benefits if drinking formula.
Bringing formula and bottles with you when you go out
It can be a hassle to remember both bottles, formula, and water when going out to run errands or if you are traveling.
Cleaning of bottles and parts
When breastfeeding vs formula feeding, there is much more clean up required for bottle feeding. Throughout the day or at the end of the day there will be bottles to clean. If you are breastfeeding, there are no bottles to clean.
Advantages Of Pumping Breast Milk
Can get help feeding bottles from others
Just like with formula feeding, since your baby will be fed from a bottle, you can have others help out with feeding your baby.
Know how much baby is drinking
Since your baby will drink breast milk from a bottle you will know the number of ounces drank at each feeding.
Baby receiving immunity of breast milk
Just as with breastfeeding, the antibodies in breast milk will boost your baby’s immunity.
Disadvantages Of Pumping Breast Milk
Two step feeding process
With pumping, the overall feeding time is longer. There is the time it takes to pump, plus the time it takes for your baby to drink a bottle.
More difficult to run errands or travel
In addition to dealing with bringing bottles of breast milk with you and maybe even a cooler, you can’t really pump in public. I had an electric outlet in my car and would use this to pump when traveling long distances by car. Another option is to use a manual pump.
Have to clean bottles and pump parts
Just like with formula feeding you will have bottles to clean. Additionally, there will be pump parts to clean too.
Feel like you’re missing out
I had a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out) moments when I was pumping for my twins. Since we had two newborn babies, we had a lot of visitors to the house. But, every 2 hours I would have to disappear for 20 minutes to go pump. I missed out on spending time with my family and friends.
Combining Breastfeeding And Formula Feeding
I thought it would also be important to point out that moms can successfully practice combination feeding.
For example, as I have mentioned, with my twins I was pumping breast milk and supplementing with formula.
Additionally, when I returned to work, I used formula to supplement with breastfeeding and pumping.
I knew when I went back to work, it did not seem possible that I would be able to pump more than twice a day.
But, I also did not think I would produce enough breast milk for my baby to remain on a diet of only breast milk.
In the end, pumping twice a day at work turned out great. Most of the time my baby would receive 1 bottle a day that was filled with half breast milk and half formula.
This means his diet was about 95% breast milk, which I was very happy with.
How To Get Feeding Help
If you choose to either breastfeed or pump, I highly recommend taking one of these extremely affordable classes from Milkology.
It will make your breastfeeding or pumping life that much easier for you and your baby. So, definitely consider signing up.
Breastfeeding Vs Formula Feeding Vs Pumping Final Thoughts
As you can see each way of feeding your baby has its own advantages and disadvantages.
From personal experience I will just say it’s very important to maintain your health.
Your baby will need his or her mom. If you are stressed because a particular feeding method is not working out, then don’t beat yourself up over trying something new.
Don’t forget, your kids will only be this small once and you want to enjoy it as much as possible.
I say this because, if I did it all over again, I probably would have stopped pumping for my twins sooner.
Because there were two babies to feed, it was just overwhelming trying to pump, then feed them, once I was on my own caring for them.
When I stopped pumping, I was able to enjoy just being a mom to them a little bit more.
With all that said, be sure to consider each option carefully. I think knowing the good and bad of all the baby feeding choices is extremely helpful in knowing which one might work best for you.
Lastly, if your feeding choice is not working out, don’t be afraid to try something new. It might just make your life a little bit easier, which is so important when caring for a newborn baby.
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