We know that breast is best — but do we know why? If you compare breast vs. bottle feeding, which one comes out on top? Let’s take a look at the two to see the pros and cons.
Breast vs. Bottle Feeding – Which is Best and Why?
Convenience: In terms of convenience, breast will always come out on top — for the mom, anyway. For a caregiver, they will need to heat up a bottle, whether it’s full of breast milk or formula. However, anyone can give a baby a bottle.
Cost: Breast milk is free! However, if you’re not hand-expressing your milk, you will have to pay for a pump, plus the bottles and storage containers, and possibly even the breast pads, a bottle warmer, nursing cover, and nursing clothes. You also have to consider any other nursing accessories you choose to use, as well as extra food for an extra-hungry nursing mom.
It’s difficult to say just how much the latter would cost (though the total would likely be marginal), but all the former items could cost anywhere from $200-$500 total, depending on where you purchase them and if they are new or used. In reality, you could probably get all of those items for far less. On the flip side, any alternative to breast milk needs to be purchased on a regular basis, whether it’s formula or the ingredients for a homemade alternative. Then of course you need the bottles and things to transport the formula and water in when you’re on the go. Bottle feeding can cost over $1,000 per year. Since breast milk is shown to have greater benefits for baby’s long-term health, breastfeeding in infancy could reduce health care costs later in life.
Nutrition: Although formulas tend to contain many of the same vitamins and minerals breast milk contains, the vitamins and minerals in formula are not bio-available. This means they are not as readily absorbed by the body as the natural vitamins and minerals in breast milk. Formula is also lacking the antibodies — the germ- and disease-fighters — that breast milk has. Breast milk composition will also change with your baby’s age to accommodate his or her nutritional needs.
Safety: Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS, something that bottle feeding cannot boast. And in addition to the pathogen-destroying antibodies, breast milk may be able to fight a future of allergies, asthma, and obesity in the babies that drink the milk. Formula provides none of these benefits. Breast milk straight from mom is always the right temperature, posing no risk for burns. For the mom, breastfeeding helps whip a postpartum uterus back into shape, reducing the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging. However, mom is also at a risk for mastitis if baby doesn’t empty the breast completely or if bacteria enters the breast through a crack in the nipple. When heating a bottle, the parent or caregiver must make sure to not overheat the liquid, so as to avoid burning baby during feeding. As long as bottle-users are practicing proper usage of their equipment, bottle feeding provides no additional safety hazards for baby or its caregivers.
Benefits for Mom: Breastfeeding offers many opportunities for mommy-baby bonding time. It can also help give mom confidence, burn calories, shrink the uterus postpartum, and lower mom’s risk of breast cancer and other diseases. The oxytocin and prolactin released during nursing relaxes the mother and helps her to feel more nurturing. Bottle feeding doesn’t offer the same bonding experience, but many moms enjoy being able to share the experience and responsibilities with a family member or other loved ones.
Do you breastfeed or bottle feed? Which do you feel is the better choice, and why?