Confused between breastfeeding and formula feeding? An expert tells you what may be best

Making the choice between breastfeeding and formula milk may be hard for a mother. An expert points out the benefits and challenges of both.
Storing breastmilk can help working women
Storing breastmilk can help working women! Image courtesy; Shutterstock
Dr. Prashanth Gowda Updated: 5 Aug 2022, 23:34 pm IST
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Do you find yourself confused about making a choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding? Well, breastfeeding is the healthiest option for both the mother and the infant. While it is true that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a newborn, sometimes due to choice, level of comfort or unavoidable circumstances, a mother may choose to feed infant formula to their child.
Let us know the difference between breastfeeding and formula feeding, and understand which can be a suitable option for you


Breastfeeding strengthens the bond between a mother and her baby. All the reputed bodies like World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Breastfeeding is the best choice for a baby’s nutrition. It helps protecting the child from allergies, infection and also several chronic conditions.

The baby should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. Beyond this period, breastfeeding is recommended till a year or longer, provided both the mother and the child are willing.

Things to know about breastfeeding
All experts recommend breastfeeding a child for six months at least. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding are:
1. Breastmilk is easily digestible and has the right amount of nutrients
2. It contains important antibodies that protect the baby from various viruses and bacteria colostrum (the first milk your baby gets when you start breastfeeding) is especially loaded with nutrients and immunity boosting compounds.
3. Breastfeeding protects your child from ear infections, respiratory tract infections, gut infections, intestinal tissue damage and bowel diseases.
4. Breastmilk also helps in maintaining a healthy baby weight

Apart from the benefits for the baby, breastfeeding is also beneficial for a mother’s health. It helps them lose weight post pregnancy, it helps the uterus contract and returns it to the pre-pregnancy size. Mothers who breastfeed also have lower risk of postpartum depression.

Formula feeding

The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. Sometimes it may not be possible for moms to breastfeed. Some moms may have certain medical conditions that prevent breastfeeding, others may have less milk supply. For working mothers, formula feeding is an option.

In such cases, commercially-prepared infant formula can be nutritious alternative. These are prepared in sterile conditions and contain proteins, sugars, fats and vitamins required by a newborn.

Formula milk benefits
Is formula miilk safe? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Uses of formula feeding are:
1. It is an alternate option for mothers who find breastfeeding difficult due to health conditions or any reasons
2. For all the working mothers expressing milk during busy schedules and ensuring availability of the same is done from time to time. Only if the mother finds it difficult to express milk should formula feed be considered.
3. It provides mothers the flexibility required in their busy schedule. However, this can be managed by expressed milk as formula milk is not expressed directly.

Challenges in formula feeding:
As is the case with breastfeeding, formula feeding comes with its own set of numerous challenges. Baby formula lacks many active nutrients and active antibodies that are found in breast milk. It does not provide the additional protection against diseases and infection that breast milk does. However, formula milk may not be very hygienic be it in terms of place of production and requires high sterilization process.

Plus, it can be expensive, and you need to make sure you buy enough stock to take care of late-night feeding needs. Whereas breast milk is available free of cost and at any time. And the kind of emotional connect breastfeeding has to offer cannot be derived from formula feeding.

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Baby care tips
Remember, your baby’s health comes first! Image courtesy: ShutterstockImage courtesy: Shutterstock

What to choose between breastfeeding and formula feeding?

Choosing to breastfeed should be the mother’s first option. However, if the mother is unable to breastfeed due to medical conditions or on certain drug only then can formula milk should be considered. If the mother is unable to breastfeed, it is highly recommended oneself to take the opinion of a pediatrician or a lactation expert who will be able to provide you the necessary guidance.

There are mothers who go for a combination of both breast milk and infant formula. This is called combination feeding. After exclusive breastfeeding for six months, many women choose to have both baby formula and breast milk on their little one’s menu.

The goal for every mother is to provide her baby with adequate nutrients and that can be fulfilled by breastfeeding. Moms who are unable to breastfeed should take support from a lactation expert, family, community groups etc. to ensure breastfeeding as the best and healthiest option.

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About the Author

Dr. Prashanth Gowda Consultant - Paediatrician and Neonatologist Motherhood Hospital, Sarjapur, Bengaluru ...Read More

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