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 pumping vs formula feeding vs breastfeeding 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 they 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 each.
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Advantages Of Pumping Breast Milk Vs Formula or Breastfeeding
Yes, there are advantages to pumping when compared to both formula feeding and breastfeeding. Here we discuss three things that are beneficial when you decide to exclusively pump.
- 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: The antibodies in breast milk will boost your baby’s immunity.
Disadvantages Of Pumping Breast Milk Vs Formula Feeding or Breastfeeding
Now, what are the disadvantages of pumping? Let’s take a look.
- 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: 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.
Advantages of Formula Feeding
Now that we have reviewed pumping’s advantages and disadvantages, let’s visit the benefits of using formula for feeding your baby.
- 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 the baby 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
It’s common knowledge that nursing and feeding breast milk is healthier for your baby and even for mom. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the disadvantages to 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 bottles, formula, and water when going out to run errands or if you are traveling.
- Cleaning of bottles and parts: When looking at breastfeeding vs bottle 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. On the other hand, if you are breastfeeding there are no bottles to clean.
Advantages Of Breastfeeding
Now that we’ve reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of pumping vs formula, it’s time to look at the benefits of breastfeeding.
- Breast milk provides antibodies to your baby: 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 need to worry about bringing formula, water, and bottles with you.
Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
Yes, there are disadvantages to breastfeeding too. Here’s the list of things that are harder when you nurse your baby.
- 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.
Can You Combine Pumping & Formula Feeding?
Yes, you absolutely can combine pumping and formula feeding. In fact, this is what I did with my twins.
I just was not able to produce enough breast milk from exclusively pumping for two babies, so I used formula to supplement their feedings.
Pumping and Nursing At The Same Time
You can also pump and nurse at the same time. If you prefer you can nurse during the day and also pump, so you can feed bottles at night in order to get some rest.
Returning to work is another common time where pumping and breastfeeding will be combined.
Combining Breastfeeding And Formula Feeding
You can successfully practice combination feeding for breastfeeding and formula feeding. If you do want to breastfeed, but feel it is too much to do every single nursing session, you can supplement with formula.
Your body will adjust to the appropriate milk supply based on how often you nurse. So if you work in two formula feedings a day, your body will make less breast milk than if you exclusively breastfeed.
How To Get Pumping & Breastfeeding Help
Now that we’ve reviewed all the benefits and also disadvantages of pumping vs formula feeding vs breastfeeding, I want to share a really awesome way you can get some help with breastfeeding and pumping.
If you are trying to decide which method you will use to feed your baby and you do choose to either breastfeed or pump, I highly recommend taking an online breastfeeding class from Milkology.
These classes will teach you everything you need to know about either exclusively breastfeeding or exclusively pumping. They have amazing reviews, are taught by a Certified Lactation Educator, and are very reasonably priced.
Taking a breastfeeding or pumping class will take the stress away from trying to figure out what you are doing all on your own. And, it’s a huge bonus that you can take it online.
Lastly, if you are wondering when to take a breastfeeding class, I recommend taking it during pregnancy about 3-4 weeks before your due date. Of course, if you need help and your baby has already arrived, it’s not too late to take a class.
Deciding on pumping vs formula vs breastfeeding can be difficult, but understanding the benefits and disadvantages of each is an important step in your decision.
As you can see each way of feeding your baby has its own advantages and disadvantages. From personal experience I will say it’s very important to maintain your health.
Your baby will need his 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.
There were two babies to feed and 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 pumping vs formula vs breastfeeding 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 (or babies).