The Pros and Cons of Formula Feeding

Are you stuck trying to figure out whether or not you would like to bottle-feed or breastfeed your baby? Read more to learn about all of the pros and cons to consider when choosing how you will feed your little one.

Choosing whether to bottle-feed or breastfeed your baby can feel like one of the biggest decisions you will make when your baby is first born. The choice on how you will feed your baby is extremely personal and you should do whatever you think is best for both you and the baby.

Parents who choose to bottle-feed their baby, rather than breastfeed, often report feeling judged or shamed by other parents for their decision to use formula. There are multiple ways to feed a baby and various reasons as to why a parent may choose to bottle-feed over breastfeed. Keep in mind that some parents are unable to breastfeed due to health complications, milk production levels, or adoption. Or, it may have been decided that using formula is just a better option for their family overall. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong choice to be made - only the best choice for what works for you.

Science suggests that the gap between formula feeding and breastfeeding is not as wide as many people are led to believe. There are only a handful of additional health benefits that are shared with your baby if you do choose to breastfeed which we will share below.

If you are considering bottle-feeding your baby with formula, here is a list of pros and cons to consider before your little one arrives.

Formula Feeding: Pros and Cons To Consider

Pro: You Can Buy Your Own Supply

Formula is available at the grocery store, baby stores, and online so it is easily accessible, no matter where you go. This can be helpful in times where your plans change last-minute and you did not pack enough formula to feed your little one while you are out. Also, some breastfeeding moms may experience difficulty producing enough milk for their baby and will end up spending hours trying to feed and pump. If you are using formula, you will never have to worry about needing to stay up late into the night trying to pump enough for the next day, or have to try switching up your diet to help increase your milk production levels.

Con: Formula is Expensive

Unfortunately, buying formula can be expensive and add up rather quickly. Since your baby will most likely be using formula for at least their first year of life, you should expect to spend a lot on formula. If your baby needs a speciality formula due to an allergy or food intolerance, this can increase the average cost per year. It has been reported that most parents spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 in the first year on buying formula.

Most parents spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 in the first year on buying formula.

Pro: You Can Share Feeding Responsibilities with Your Partner, Family Member, etc.

By deciding to bottle-feed your baby using formula, the opportunity for your partner, a family member, or friend to help feed the baby is more available than with breastfeeding. Formula can be made by anyone or prepared in advance so that you can easily receive additional support feeding your baby when it is needed. By choosing to breastfeed, the mom is the only person who is able to share the special bonding moment that is associated with feeding your baby. When using formula, your partner, or other supportive individuals, are able to also have this moment of connection with the baby.

Con: Judgement From the Outside World

As we mentioned earlier, parents who have chosen to bottle-feed their baby rather than breastfeed, have reported feeling judged or shamed for making this decision. Keep in mind that both formula and breast milk are great, nutrient-dense options for your baby and with both options, your baby will be healthy. At the end of the day, what matters most is making a decision that feels right for you and your family.

Pro: You Have Your Body Fully Back

After over nine, strenuous months of pregnancy - avoiding all of your favorite foods, a nice glass of wine to rewind, and your morning coffee - it is nice to finally have your body back fully to yourself. If you are not breastfeeding, you can start to eat and drink all of your favorite treats again without needing to worry about how it may have an affect on your breast milk.

Con: Health Benefits Provided from Breastfeeding

The vitamins and nutrients that are added into formula are practically identical to what is found in breast milk. However, breast milk and breastfeeding does offer a few health benefits to both you and your baby that formula cannot. Breastfed babies typically have fewer infections and hospitalizations due to health-related concerns than formula-fed babies. This is because when breastfeeding, the mom is able to share her antibodies with her baby that will help to strengthen the immune system. This can help lower the baby’s chances of ear infections, diabetes, allergies, asthma, and more. The act of breastfeeding also has health benefits for the mom. Breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Pro: No Discomfort, Leaking, or Sensitivity for You

By choosing to feed with formula, you will not have to deal with extra months of breast sensitivity, leaking, and discomfort that comes with the act of pumping and breastfeeding. A great benefit of not breastfeeding is that you will finally have your body fully back and can start to really feel like yourself again.

Con: More Time Spent Cleaning and Washing Dishes

Preparing and mixing formulas can be a little tricky to master as you have to make sure it's the right ratio, consistency, and temperature. And with your new, busy schedule who has time for more dishes and cleaning. However, unfortunately, with using formula you will spend more time cleaning and washing out bottles than you would if you were to breastfeed.

Learn more about formula feeding from Board Certified Pediatrician Dr. Caitlin Colvard:

Pro: More Freedom Available in Your Schedule

Since formula is easy to transport, can be prepared by anyone, and available at various grocery stores and pharmacies, your schedule does not have to revolve around the baby as much as it would with breastfeeding. Using formula will allow for you to have a much more flexible schedule since you will not have to plan to pump ahead of time or schedule around your routine feeding sessions. Bottle-feeding will make it much easier for you to adapt to last-minute schedule changes without worrying too much about how you will feed your baby.

Con: Formula Smells Bad

Yes, it is a known fact that formula does have a rather unique and unappealing smell to it. While your baby will not notice this at all and most likely love the taste of formula, you will be stuck handling the bad smell of it.

Pro: You Will Know How Much Your Baby is Actually Eating

Formula gives you the comfort and knowledge of knowing exactly how much your baby is eating on a daily basis. With breastfeeding, moms are unable to tell how much their baby is actually eating per session. With formula, you will be able to monitor and track exactly how much your baby finishes. Since breast milk is dynamic by nature, the nutritional value can vary person-to-person. But with formula, you will have the insight as to how much food, vitamins, and minerals your little one is getting in.

Formula gives you the comfort and knowledge of knowing exactly how much your baby is eating.

Con: More Time Spent Planning and Packing Before Leaving the House

Before you head out, and especially if you plan to be gone all day, you will likely have a longer checklist of things to remember to bring with you if you are using formula. Breastfeeding does not require as many things (like bottles and the formula mix itself,) whereas with bottle-feeding, there are quite a few things you will have to remember to pack with you. We recommend creating a checklist on your phone of everything you need to remember to put in your diaper bag. This way, you can scan through the list before you head out the door and make sure you have everything you need for the day.

Pro: Your Baby May Stay Fuller for Longer

Formula usually takes longer than breast milk to fully break down and be digested by your baby. This means that your baby will end up feeling fuller, for longer. For you, this means less time feeding and more time checking off everything else you have to get done throughout the day.

Con: Formula Can Be Harder For Babies to Digest

Naturally, breast milk is typically easier for babies to digest in comparison to formula. Formula can sometimes cause upset stomachs, gas, or diarrhea. However, this is not the case for every baby and most formulas will work just as well for your baby. If you do notice that the regular formula is causing digestive issues, try switching to a speciality formula and monitor your baby’s symptoms. You may find that the speciality formula causes less problems for your little one.

Pro: Your Baby is Still Nourished and Healthy

The most important benefit of formula feeding is that ultimately, using formula will leave your baby just as nourished and healthy as a baby that is breastfeeding. You should trust your intuition and do what you think is right for your baby.

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.