How do you choose which is right for you, breastfeeding or formula-feeding?

September 8, 2022

By Dominique Lambright

New parents make many important decisions, one of which is to breastfeed or use formula.

Breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding

It’s a frequent misunderstanding that formula is equivalent to breast milk.

Natural Breastmilk is the gold standard for infants because it aids brain development and boosts the immune system. Formula does not boost the immune system as breastmilk does. Infants who are breastfed have lower mortality rates and infections than those who are formula-fed.

Breast milk comes in three stages: colostrum, transitional, and mature.

• Colostrum lasts 2-4 days after birth and is thicker and yellower than mature breast milk. It contains proteins, vitamins, and immunoglobulins (antibodies), which give newborns immunity.

• Transitional milk lasts about two weeks and has lots of fat, lactose, and vitamins.

• Mature milk is produced after transitional milk and is mostly water, but also has carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to help with growth.

There are many non-nutritional benefits to breastfeeding as well:

• It’s completely free.

• Breastfeeding may lessen the mother’s risk of breast cancer and heart disease and shrinks the uterus faster.

• Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to bond with a new baby.


The three most common types of formula are cow milk protein-based, soybased, and protein hydrolysate formula.

• Cow milk-based formula is simpler to digest than conventional cow milk since its nutrients are closer to breast milk.

• Soy-based formulas are a good choice for lactose- intolerant newborns.

• Hydrolyzed proteins make digestion simpler. They’re a fantastic option for infants with cow milk or soy allergies.

The non-nutritional benefits of formula or bottle feeding include:

• It’s worth noting that bottle-feeding can give another partner a chance to bond with the baby.

Medical professionals and their recommendations for mothers

After birth, doctors advise feeding an infant nothing but breast milk for the first six months and then gradually introducing other foods over the next year. But for various reasons, not all mothers can nurse their babies. When moms are pushed into breastfeeding when they don’t want to or are unable to, some medical professionals don’t realize their impact on the mothers. Not one person should be made to feel bad about it either.

For example, I have three children, and I have always been able to do both if I choose to. Not being given the option in the hospital to even try giving my baby formula the third time around was irritating. I was not given formula as a supplement just in case for my third child. All my children had eaten more in the hospital when they were first born, so even though I may have latched them right away, they were still hungry.

I understood the formula shortage, but I was sitting in a hospital bed feeling helpless with my crying baby after trying to latch her over and over, hoping she would pull a little more milk out of my boobs. I asked a few times to be able to have some formula for her, but I just kept getting told that I should keep trying while simultaneously letting them know that I know my children and they eat more than I am producing; they all have. It’s like they didn’t want to listen or believe me.

What if you just can’t breastfeed?

There’s no shame in supplementing breast milk with formula if you’re having trouble nursing your baby. According to research, the use of formula is associated with feelings of guilt and social stigma for women unable to breastfeed. It’s vital to remember that there’s no one right way to handle a baby, and that formula might be a perfectly acceptable substitute for or even a preferred feeding method.

Common concerns

Is the baby getting enough milk? Breastfeeding can take time to get used to, and the amount of milk produced is related to the amount the baby drinks. With formula, it’s easy to measure precisely how much milk is used for each feeding.

Working mothers often have difficulty breastfeeding, so the formula can be supplemental and help alleviate the stress of working and being a parent. With formula, anyone can feed the baby, giving the mother more flexibility. Workplace resources may not be available to support pumping or breastfeeding.

Mothers may have issues while breastfeeding, like nipple pain or inverted nipples. Formula helps ensure the baby is fed and the mother is taken care of as well.

Some women need to use formula due to medical reasons. HIV/AIDS-positive mothers risk passing the virus through their breastmilk, and certain medications can harm the baby through breastmilk too. Formula then becomes the safest option for feeding.

What if your plans never included breastfeeding?

Nearly 20 percent of new U.S. moms don’t breastfeed and don’t always get help. If you’re not nursing, you need helpful, nonjudgmental answers to your concerns too. After giving birth, if you do not breastfeed or express milk, your milk will dry up on its own, usually within 7-10 days.

Lifestyle choices

It’s Not Emotionally Possible. Some women who’ve undergone trauma can’t nurse comfortably.

Medications. No mother’s health or well-being should depend on nursing.

It’s Not “You”. Breastfeeding is tremendously time-consuming. If you tried, it might be a relief to stop.

You Don’t Have The Right Support System. You have support, but not enough for nursing.

It’s Your Decision, No One Else’s. You don’t need a cause not to breastfeed.

Fed is best!

The mother’s decision about breastfeeding versus supplementation with formula is the most important factor to take into account. Experts agree that breast milk is ideal, but they also point out that any amount is beneficial. Talking with your physician is the most effective way to get information on how to provide care for a baby in a way that is not only risk-free but also beneficial to the child’s health.

Local help

If you live in Milwaukee and are considering natural breastfeeding, there is a wonderful organization called the African American Breastfeeding Network. They can answer your questions, offer encouragement and even set you up with a breastfeeding Dula. For more information, you can reach them at (414) 617-3441 or visit their website at