Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed their baby is one of the biggest decisions expectant and new parents will make.
Healt experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants. But breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.
For moms who can't breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. Formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Some mothers worry that if they don't breastfeed, they won't bond with their baby. But the truth is, loving mothers will always create a special bond with their children. And feeding — no matter how — is a great time to strengthen that bond.
The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby.
All About Breastfeeding
Nursing can be a wonderful experience for both mother and baby. It provides ideal nourishment and a special bonding experience that many mothers cherish.
A number of health organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — recommend breastfeeding as the best choice for babies. Breastfeeding helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions.
The AAP recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Beyond that, breastfeeding is encouraged until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing.
Here are some of the many benefits of breastfeeding:
Fighting infections and other conditions. Breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. During breastfeeding, antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from a mother to her baby and strengthen the immune system. This helps lower a baby's chances of getting many infections, including:
Breastfeeding also may protect babies against:
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies.
Nutrition and ease of digestion. Often called the "perfect food" for a human baby's digestive system, breast milk's components — lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat — are easily digested by a newborn.
As a group, breastfed infants have less difficulty with digestion than do formula-fed infants. Breast milk tends to be more easily digested so that breastfed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
Breast milk also naturally contains many of the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires. One exception is vitamin D — the AAP recommends that all breastfed babies begin receiving vitamin D supplements during the first 2 months and continuing until a baby consumes enough vitamin D-fortified formula or milk (after 1 year of age).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates formula companies to ensure they provide all the necessary nutrients (including vitamin D) in their formulas. Still, commercial formulas can't completely match breast milk's exact composition. Why? Because milk is a living substance made by each mother for her individual infant, a process that can't be duplicated in a factory.
Free. Breast milk doesn't cost a cent, while the cost of formula quickly adds up. And unless you're pumping breast milk and giving it to your baby, there's no need for bottles, nipples, and other supplies that can be costly. Since breastfed babies are less likely to be sick, that may mean they make fewer trips to the doctor's office, so fewer co-pays and less money are paid for prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.
Different tastes. Nursing mothers usually need 300 to 500 extra calories per day, which should come from a wide variety of well-balanced foods. This introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers' breast milk, which has different flavors depending on what their mothers have eaten. By tasting the foods of their "culture," breastfed infants more easily accept solid foods.
Convenience. With no last-minute runs to the store for more formula, breast milk is always fresh and available whether you're home or out and about. And when women breastfeed, there's no need to wash bottles and nipples or warm up bottles in the middle of the night.
Smarter babies. Some studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed have slightly higher IQs than children who were formula fed.
"Skin-to-skin" contact. Many nursing mothers really enjoy the experience of bonding so closely with their babies. And the skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant.
Beneficial for mom, too. The ability to totally nourish a baby can help a new mother feel confident in her ability to care for her baby. Breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Also, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and also may help decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding can be easy from the get-go for some mothers, but take a while to get used to for others. Moms and babies need plenty of patience to get used to the routine of breastfeeding.
Common concerns of new moms, especially during the first few weeks and months, may include:
Personal comfort. Initially, many moms feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding. But with proper education, support, and practice, most moms overcome this.
Latch-on pain is normal for the first week to 10 days, and should last less than a minute with each feeding. But if breastfeeding hurts throughout feedings, or if their nipples and/or breasts are sore, it's a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to get help from a lactation consultant or their doctor. Many times, it's just a matter of using the proper technique, but sometimes pain can mean that something else is going on, like an infection.
Time and frequency of feedings. Breastfeeding requires a big time commitment from mothers, especially in the beginning, when babies feed often. A breastfeeding schedule or the need to pump breast milk during the day can make it harder for some moms to work, run errands, or travel.
And breastfed babies do need to eat more often than babies who take formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This means mom may find herself in demand every 2 or 3 hours (maybe more, maybe less) in the first few weeks.
Diet. Women who are breastfeeding need to be aware of what they eat and drink, since these can be passed to the baby through the breast milk. Just like during pregnancy, breastfeeding women should not eat fish that are high in mercury and should limit consumption of lower mercury fish.
If a mom drinks alcohol, a small amount can pass to the baby through breast milk. She should wait at least 2 hours after a single alcoholic drink to breastfeed to avoid passing any alcohol to the baby. Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than 300 milligrams (about one to three cups of regular coffee) or less per day because it can cause problems like restlessness and irritability in some babies.
Maternal medical conditions, medicines, and breast surgery. Medical conditions such as HIV or AIDS or those that involve chemotherapy or treatment with certain medicines can make breastfeeding unsafe. A woman should check with her doctor or a lactation consultant if she's unsure if she should breastfeed with a specific condition. Women should always check with the doctor about the safety of taking medicines while breastfeeding, including over-the-counter and herbal medicines.
Mothers who've had breast surgery, such as a reduction, may have difficulty with their milk supply if their milk ducts have been severed. In this situation, a woman should to talk to her doctor about her concerns and work with a lactation specialist.
All About Formula Feeding
Commercially prepared infant formulas are a nutritious alternative to breast milk, and even contain some vitamins and nutrients that breastfed babies need to get from supplements.
Manufactured under sterile conditions, commercial formulas attempt to duplicate mother's milk using a complex combination of proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins that aren't possible to create at home. So if you don't breastfeed your baby, it's important to use only commercially prepared formula and not try to make your own.
Besides medical concerns that may prevent breastfeeding, for some women, breastfeeding may be too difficult or stressful. Here are other reasons women may choose to formula feed:
Convenience. Either parent (or another caregiver) can feed the baby a bottle at any time (although this is also true for women who pump their breast milk). This allows mom to share the feeding duties and helps her partner to feel more involved in the crucial feeding process and the bonding that often comes with it.
Flexibility. Once the bottles are made, a formula-feeding mother can leave her baby with a partner or caregiver and know that her little one's feedings are taken care of. There's no need to pump or to schedule work or other obligations and activities around the baby's feeding schedule. And formula-feeding moms don't need to find a private place to nurse in public.
Time and frequency of feedings. Because formula is less digestible than breast milk, formula-fed babies usually need to eat less often than breastfed babies.
Diet. Women who opt to formula feed don't have to worry about the things they eat or drink that could affect their babies.
Formula Feeding Challenges
As with breastfeeding, there are some challenges to consider when deciding whether to formula feed.
Lack of antibodies. None of the antibodies found in breast milk are in manufactured formula. So formula can't provide a baby with the added protection against infection and illness that breast milk does.
Can't match the complexity of breast milk. Manufactured formulas have yet to duplicate the complexity of breast milk, which changes as the baby's needs change.
Planning and organization. Unlike breast milk — which is always available, unlimited, and served at the right temperature — formula feeding your baby requires planning and organization to make sure that you have what you need when you need it. Parents must buy formula and make sure it's always on hand to avoid late-night runs to the store.
And it's important to always have the necessary supplies (like bottles and nipples) clean, easily accessible, and ready to go — otherwise, you will have a very hungry, very fussy baby to answer to. With 8-10 feedings in a 24-hour period, parents can quickly get overwhelmed if they're not prepared and organized.
Expense. Formula can be costly. Powdered formula is the least expensive, followed by concentrated, with ready-to-feed being the most expensive. And specialty formulas (such as soy and hypoallergenic) cost more — sometimes far more — than the basic formulas. During the first year of life, the cost of basic formula can run about $1,500.
Possibility of producing gas and constipation. Formula-fed babies may have more gas and firmer bowel movements than breastfed babies.
Making a Choice
Deciding how you will feed your baby can be a hard decision. You'll really only know the right choice for your family when your baby comes.
Many women decide on one method before the birth and then change their minds after their baby is born. And many women decide to breastfeed and supplement with formula because they find that is the best choice for their family and their lifestyle.
While you're weighing the pros and cons, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. These health care providers can give you more information about your options and help you make the best decision for your family.
Breastfeeding: What Are the Alternatives
Written by Hope Cristol
Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 06, 2022
All moms want the best for their babies, but the best choices aren’t always black and white. You’ve probably heard the saying “breast is best,” right? The truth is that breastfeeding can be difficult for some moms and babies.
That’s OK. There are a number of good, safe, and healthy alternatives to breastfeeding.
“Fed is best,” says Melissa Pichetto, a neonatal nurse practitioner in Atlanta. “Fed babies are less likely to see me in the hospital. Fed babies have less failure to thrive, less jaundice, less lethargy.”
For some moms, the tough decision may not be whether to bottle feed, but instead what to put in the baby bottle. Pumped breastmilk or commercial formula? Plant-based or milk-based? American brands or European?
Why Look for Alternatives?
Ideally, breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your infant. It gives them nutrition along with important antibodies (proteins that support your immune system). Research suggests breastfed infants are less likely to get certain illnesses, from ear infections to allergies to tummy problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast milk as the best nutrition for infants. Babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, according to the AAP. After other foods have been introduced, the AAP encourages mothers to continue to breastfeed until baby is at least a year old, and as long after that as both mother and child are willing. There are continued benefits from breastfeeding beyond 1 year, and up to 2 years especially in the mother."
Now for a reality check: Most moms don’t follow those guidelines to the letter. In 2015, four out of five infants started out breastfeeding. By 3 months, just under half were breastfed only. By their first birthday, only a third were still breastfed.
You might choose not to breastfeed because you:
Don’t know about breastfeeding benefits
Think bottle-feeding is more socially accepted
Don’t have good family support, social support, and/or employer support
Have problems with latching, sore nipples, or inflammation
If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, know your choices to keep your baby fed and healthy.
You can choose from:
Breastmilk (from a bottle)
Just because you’re not breastfeeding doesn’t mean you can’t give your baby breastmilk -- ideally, your own, expressed with an electric or manual pump, then stored for future use. But that’s not the only way people are getting it these days.
Pumping your own milk. Joan Y. Meek, MD a pediatrician and lactation consultant in Orlando, FL, believes that if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed directly, pumping your breastmilk and then bottle-feeding it to your baby is the next best choice.
There’s a learning curve to it, though moms who have experience breastfeeding usually have experience pumping, too. Research suggests more than 85% of breastfeeding women pump milk at some point. If you’re new to pumping, Meek says the Office on Women’s Health website is a good source of information about pumping and storing breastmilk.
Breastmilk sharing. Some lactating women donate breastmilk to a milk bank. Most have strict safety and processing protocols, including pasteurization. This milk is usually sent to hospitals for babies there, but you can get it with a doctor’s prescription. Some people share milk casually: When friends or family members nurse your infant (and vice versa).
But be careful. This can be risky. If the mom providing the milk has an infection, she can pass it to your baby. Or the milk could get contaminated somewhere in the process, whether it’s expressing, storage, or handling. Someone might even mess with it on purpose, Meek says.
Online buying. It seems there’s nothing you can’t buy or sell on the internet, including breastmilk. The problem is you won’t really know if your purchase is 100% breastmilk, or if it’s free of things that could harm your baby, like prescription or illegal drugs. “Purchasing human milk over the internet from total strangers is very risky and should be discouraged,” Meek says.
What About Formula?
Commercially available baby formulas usually list some special addition or benefit on their labels, like probiotics, omega-3s, eye health, and more. Meek says the differences in these formulas are tiny and have little impact on your baby’s health.
“Many of the claims made about particular formulas are based more on marketing to the consumer than they are on significant differences in the product,” she says. Head-to-head studies of infants who got the products showed little difference.
In other words, you won’t be shortchanging your baby if you pass on the vitamin-enhanced, small-batch, craft baby formula. You can skip name-brand formula, too, if you want. “Store-brand baby formula is often a repackaged version of a name-brand formula,” Pichetto says.
The main differences in formulas have to do with the type of protein and whether it upsets your baby’s tummy.
Cow-milk protein: Most formula is based on cow milk, which has been changed to closely resemble human breastmilk.
Soy-based formula: If your baby can’t handle dairy-based formula, soy-based formula is a safe and nutritious option.
Hydrolyzed formulas: With these, the protein has been broken down into smaller pieces (hydrolyzed), to make it easier to digest. Partially hydrolyzed formulas may ease symptoms of gut discomfort. Extensively hydrolyzed formulas are a good choice if you think your little one has food allergies.
Formulas to Avoid
To the untrained eye, some ingredients in commercial formula don’t seem very healthy for an infant. Parents who want to use a more natural or wholesome formula (based on their own views of natural and wholesome) may turn to European brands, purchased over the internet. Or they may make their own formula at home.
Medical experts warn against both choices. Here are some reasons why.
Imported formula. Hipp and Holle are two European brands that have become popular with some U.S. parents. They also aren’t registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which makes them illegal here. As such, they don’t undergo FDA review, and they’re sold to U.S. consumers online via third-party distributors.
The makers don’t have to follow FDA safety guidelines, which are designed to protect the formula from tampering, contamination, improper shipping, or improper storage.
Homemade formula. Making baby formula with “all-natural ingredients” is surely an act of love, but the result could harm your child. Why?
Commercial formula has been extensively studied. The ingredients provide a specific balance of nutrients to meet your baby’s needs. You might not be able to recreate this in your kitchen. “Homemade formulas may not provide the appropriate balance between water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins and minerals that are standard in infant formula,” Meek says.
Commercial formula is regulated. That’s not the case with homemade formula where the first ingredient is raw cow's milk. There are also significant risks to feeding raw, unpasteurized milk to babies, Meek says. This was a common cause of newborn or infant death before formula became available.
Breastfeeding Products | products for breastfeeding |
There are many baby care products, accessories and clothes on the market. But which ones are really necessary for breastfeeding? More on this in our helpful list.
Share this information
If you are planning to breastfeed, the right kit will make it so much easier. However, it is not so easy to understand which accessories are really needed for this, and which ones can be dispensed with. To help you, we have divided the whole breastfeeding period into several stages, as your needs are likely to change over time. In addition, we asked breastfeeding moms for tips and tricks on the most useful nursing accessories.
Breastfeeding supplies for the early days
The first few days after your baby is born can be stressful, so it's best to prepare ahead of time. Here are some things you're sure to need, whether you're staying in the hospital for a few days or heading straight home:
nursing bras, nursing night bras and nursing tops;
nursing nightgowns or pajamas;
disposable or reusable bra pads;
nipple remedy for dry skin and cracks;
shapers* for flat or inverted nipples;
book on breastfeeding;
contacts of a lactation consultant, supervising doctor or hotline.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding, your lactation consultant or healthcare provider may recommend the following accessories:
Nursing pads* if your baby cannot latch on or your nipples are sore. Do not use nursing pads for a long time. If you have any problems or pain, contact your lactation consultant or your healthcare provider.
Breast pump** to relieve symptoms of breast swelling and/or stimulate milk production.
Some mums like to use the cooling hydrogel pads* which provide relief in the first days after delivery, especially when milk begins to flow.
“Pillows help a lot to support your back, legs and arms. I also need bra pads in case of milk leaks, a nursing bra and loose tops for quick access to the breasts (I converted regular quality bras into nursing bras that better support the breasts). And we also used a sling all the time,” advises Zaria, a mother of two from South Africa.
“Hydrogel pads were my number one product. They were given to me in the first days of breastfeeding, so I never had sore or cracked nipples. I highly recommend hydrogel pads and buy them for anyone who plans to breastfeed,” shares her experience Camilla, a mother from Australia.
“You absolutely need someone to bring you something to drink. I kept forgetting to prepare myself a glass of water before feeding!” says Meg, mother of two from France.
Thermos to drink hot while sitting in bed. Delicious food and light snacks. My mother-in-law cooked me amazing beef stew and delicious pancakes (I had to eat well!). A pillow to put the baby on because I didn't have the strength to hold it. A comfortable chair, a nightlight for feeding at night and a pillow to sit on (I had stitches - not a pleasant feeling!) ”advises Felicia, a mother of two from the UK.
“A caring spouse, girlfriend or grandmother to bring tea and anything else you might need while you sit and feed. And also an e-book to read with one hand!” says Julie, a mom from Spain.
Initial Breastfeeding Supplies
You and your baby will likely get comfortable with breastfeeding in the first couple of weeks. Feeding will occur frequently and take a long time. Here are some tools that will make your life easier and make breastfeeding more comfortable as your milk production begins to stabilize:
breastfeeding mobile application;
disposable or reusable bra pads;
breast milk collection pads*;
Large stock of healthy snacks, drinks and ways to pass the time.
Sooner or later you will get bored with the comfort of home and want to start walking with your baby. For tips on breastfeeding outside the home, see our article on breastfeeding in public.
Tips for breastfeeding moms
“For me, the most useful things were breastfeeding bras, disposable bra pads and large diapers to wipe up leaking milk, cover the baby or cover the chest. With cracked nipples, I saved myself with lanolin cream, and loose tops and cardigans made the feeding process easier, ”says Tatiana, mother of three children from Switzerland.
“I find the most useful accessory to be a good quality U-shaped breastfeeding pillow. I also had a rocking chair, in which, at a certain inclination, it was very convenient for me to feed the child. To relax, I always listened to music,” says Violeta, a mother from Romania.
“A sports water bottle that doesn't leak even when open so you can put it next to you on a sofa or bed. And also an application to track feedings and remind you which breast I fed last time, ”says Francesca, a mother from the UK.
“Breast milk collection pads that are placed inside a bra to collect leaking milk. I had an overabundance of milk, that was the only way I was saved,” shares Lisa-Maria, mother of two children from Switzerland.
“I really liked the D-ring feeding cover to cover my baby and not distract him when feeding outside the house. The slightly rocking chair turned out to be a great alternative to outrageously expensive rocking chairs. Reusable bra pads, in my opinion, perfectly absorb milk, and diapers, as it turns out, can be used in a thousand ways. I regret that I didn’t buy the Medela Easy Expression bustier, it would have been much easier to pump with it!” says Camilla, a mother from Australia.
Breastfeeding accessories for pumping
During breastfeeding, you may need a breast pump to express milk. The right type of breast pump depends on the individual case and how much milk you want to get. If you plan to express milk regularly, you may also need:
steam sterilizer, cold water sterilizer or microwave sterilization bags;
breast milk storage bags;
bustier top for hands-free pumping;
Advice for breastfeeding moms
“At first, when I thought my breasts were about to explode, I used the Medela Electronic Breast Pump** just to get rid of excess milk without overstimulating my breasts. He made my life a lot easier,” says Tatiana, a mother of three from Switzerland.
“I used a Medela Freestyle Dual Electronic Breastpump** to increase my milk supply and fixed it with an Easy Expression bustier to keep my hands free. It turned out to be a wonderful decision,” says Amy, a mother from the UK.
Read instructions before use. Consult a specialist about possible contraindications.
* RC No. FZ 2010/07352 dated 07/19/2010
** RC No. FZ 2010/06525 dated 03/17/2021
Instead of a mixture: how two American women invent synthetic breast milk against the backdrop of a milk shortage
infant formula in the US, there is renewed discussion about other alternatives to breastfeeding. Two entrepreneurs have independently started developing synthetic milk and are preparing to launch it on the market. One uses fermentation technology, the other grows human cells that can produce milk
Laura Katz and Michelle Egger, 29, came up with the idea to develop a synthetic alternative to breast milk separately, but both of them foresaw the potential for a shortage of formula in the market.
Startups Helaina Katz and BioMilq Egger raised more than $20 million each from high-profile investors (Bill Gates was one of those who invested in BioMilq). Despite the fact that the approval of the products of startups by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, a regulatory body in the United States. - Forbes Woman ) will take years to come, their founders are confident that innovative developments will provide modern families with healthy alternatives that will be easier to find than real breast milk. The question they need to answer is: how many parents would be willing to switch to synthetics?
The idea for Helaina came to Laira Katz at the age of 23, long before she thought about her own children. One day, she walked out of a global nutrition class (she was then an NYU graduate student in food science), got on the subway, and, to distance herself from the crowds in the crowded train car, turned on Gimlet Media's Reply-All podcast. The host talked about a young mother who paid dubious people on the Internet for breast milk for her baby, and spent hours driving for him. Katz realized that no one had yet managed to bring synthetic breast milk to the market, and decided that she would be the first. She founded Helaina to focus on precision fermentation—the “programming” of yeast so it can produce breast milk protein that can be sold.
“The shortage of formula shows how important it is to innovate in this area to provide better access to parents who need to feed their babies with something other than breast milk,” says Katz. “We are humanizing infant formula and bringing it closer to breast milk in terms of properties.”
It is now possible for caregivers to feed infants natural expressed breast milk or infant formula, which is cow's milk that has been modified by technology to resemble human milk.
Katz has raised $25 million in funding from sponsors such as Spark Capital and Siam Capital. Together with a team of 30, they work in a New York laboratory and experiment with precision fermentation and its use in the production of food for infants and older consumers. The product is currently in the early stages of clinical trials. Katz can't say when Helaina will hit the shelves of baby food stores, but she is confident that her product launch will stabilize prices and offer parents an affordable alternative to breast milk, thus destroying the oligopoly of four companies - Abbott, Nestle, Perrigo and Reckitt Benckiser. , - which together occupy 90% of US formula milk market.
Although it may be repulsive to feed babies with test-tube milk at first, there will still be those who want to, says Stephanie Bardeen, professor of food technology and design at New York University and the Parsons School of Design. “I think technology can be really helpful in closing nutritional gaps,” says Bardeen. She was one of Katz's tutors at New York University, but hasn't spoken to the entrepreneur since. “My only concern with these kinds of substitutions is that companies need to look at the body in a complex way,” says Bardeen, citing the example of Soylent, a meal replacement drink whose inventors were forced to recall and refine their product several times from for unforeseen consequences of its use.
New baby food companies enter the market infrequently due to lack of innovation. “Synthetic milk could be the solution,” says Shagun Singh, director of research at RBC Capital Markets. "I'm sure he can have a future."
BioMilq is another company that hopes to capitalize on this future. Backed by $25 million from investors such as Gates, Novo Holdings and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Egger, CEO and co-founder of BioMilq, plans to bring synthetic breast milk to market in the next three to five years. Instead of fermenting yeast like Helaina does, BioMilq takes breast milk and breast tissue donated by women (they got Target store gift cards as a thank you) and grows human cells that can make milk.
According to Egger, BioMilq is in the research and development phase, which will take between one and a half to two years to complete. “Baby food hasn't really been of interest to traditional entrepreneurs and investors because it's been seen as a women's issue for the last ten or so years,” says Egger. “No one off the street can launch a baby food product, and for good reason. But this blocked innovation, because it is not easy to bring a product to market. It requires a lot of capital and scientific knowledge.”
Once BioMilq is cleared to go to market, Egger will sell it directly to consumers at a price high enough to offset the technology's high production costs. She believes that her product will help women achieve equality in the workplace without harming the child.