Making the choice to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby is a very personal one that is different for everyone. Here are tons of pros and cons for both choices
We live in a world where moms judge each other for everything. For public schooling their kids or for home schooling their kids. For letting their kids eat store-bought baby food or for making their own baby food from scratch. For working outside the home or for being a stay-at-home-mom. It sucks, but unfortunately, it’s true.
One of the biggest things mom judge each other for choosing to breastfeed or bottle feed their baby. It’s a very personal decision that every mom has to make, and there are pros and cons to both.
It’s an important decision you should make before your baby is born, and it’s one that should not be made lightly. Everybody is different, every baby is different, and you shouldn’t let anybody tell you what to do. Choosing whether to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby is your decision, and today, I want to share some pros and cons to both. I’m not trying to push you one way or the other, but I am going to be very honest about both options so you can make the best decision for you and your baby.
Pros of Breastfeeding:
1. It’s free. Definitely the best part of breastfeeding. You don’t have to pay any money for that milk!
2. You can feed your baby anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to worry about warming up a bottle or even mixing one. You can just lift up your shirt and stick your baby on there. Super easy and super fast.
3. Bonding. One thing I loved about breastfeeding my babies, especially when they were little, was that it was a special time for us to just be together and bond. It’s hard to explain, but breastfeeding really is special and can be such a great experience for you and your baby.
4. Baby gets health benefits. When you breastfeed your baby, your baby gets antibodies to help fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding also helps your baby later in life because it reduces the risk of asthma and allergies. While formula has come a long way, it hasn’t been able to replicate these benefits.
5. It can help you lose weight. Because being a human milk factory burns a lot of calories, moms who breastfeed are often able to lose the baby weight faster than moms who bottle feed their babies. Of course there are other factors like diet and exercise, but burning those extra calories really does help.
6. It delays your period. Okay, this might be one of the best parts of breastfeeding, too. It’s different for every woman, but breastfeeding your baby can help delay you from getting your period back. With both of my babies, I didn’t get my period again until after I stopped breastfeeding. Pure bliss.
7. It’s convenient at night. Being able to breastfeed at night is especially convenient when your baby is up every few hours eating because you can just go right in and feed your baby. You don’t have to listen to them cry or fuss while you go make their bottle because the milk is already ready to go. It’s also nice because you don’t have to turn on any lights or worry about washing any bottles. It makes nighttime feedings a lot quicker and easier.
Cons of Breastfeeding:
1. It can be uncomfortable physically and socially. Depending on the person, it can definitely be uncomfortable. Those first few days and weeks getting adjusted to breastfeeding can be physically uncomfortable. And for some people, breastfeeding can feel awkward in public. I’m kind of a reserved person, and even with a cover on I was never completely comfortable breastfeeding my babies in public. For some people, it’s just not their thing.
2. Pumping is the worst. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who was like “I love using my breastpump!” I have a super nice one we got through insurance and I still hate using it. If you didn’t feel like a milk factory before, then you certainly will when you hook that thing up. Plus cleaning a breast pump is also awful. And it requires your hands to hold on, so you can’t read or scroll through social media while you do it. Basically, I hate it.
3. Not all clothing works with breastfeeding. I love wearing dresses to church, but it’s definitely out when you’re breastfeeding. And in the winter it can be hard to wear sweaters or layers, too. Most things you can just lift up, but if it’s bulky, it’s going to be hard to keep it off of your baby. You really do have to think about what you wear when you are breastfeeding.
4. It’s can be hard if you choose to go back to work. Like I said, pumping sucks. And if you decide to go back to work after your baby is born, you’re going to have to pump throughout the day to keep up your supply. I haven’t personally experienced this, but I have talked to a few girls who were in medical school after they had babies and they told me it was hard to take breaks every few hours so they could go pump every day.
5. Dad can’t help feed the baby. If you choose to breastfeed, you are baby’s sole provider of food. Obviously dads can’t breastfeed the baby (nor can anyone else) so the full responsibility is on you. Some men are totally fine with that but I know that my husband did wish he could help with feeding a little more, and once we switched to bottle feeding, he was able to help out and he enjoyed that special bonding time with our babies.
6. You still have to buy accessories. Even though the milk is free, you’re still going to have to buy a few things to help you in the breastfeeding journey. Early on, you’re going to have to have nursing pads and nipple cream, and I highly recommend buying a nursing pillow. And having a breastpump, even if you don’t use it that often, can be very handy, even if it is awful. Those things can definitely add up, and while not as expensive as formula, they still are a good chunk of money.
7. You only have one nipple so if baby doesn’t latch well it can be hard. If for some reason your baby has a hard time with the shape of your nipple, it might be hard to work through. I know there are lactation consultants and nipple shields, but you only have one (well, two) nipples, and if your baby doesn’t like the shape, it’s going to be tough to breastfeed multiple times a day.
8. It’s a big time commitment. Breastfeeding takes a lot of time. Time to get figure out, time to get used to, time feeding the baby, and time pumping. Since you are the only one feeding your baby, you are the one who has to do everything, and when your baby is little and eats a lot, it can feel like all you ever do is breastfeed.
9. The possibility of breast infections. There are a few infections that breastfeeding mothers can get that, while treatable, can be very painful. Mastitis, blocked ducts, and thrush are all obstacles you might run into while breastfeeding. And while you can treat them and make them go away, it’s awful trying to breastfeed through them.
10. It can be hard to leave baby for very long. When I was breastfeeding our babies, I couldn’t leave them for more than an hour or two before I would have to come back and feed them. In other words, date night was basically out and I rarely got any time out of the house by myself. For some people that’s fine and it won’t bother them, but for other people who love their social life, it’s a challenge.
Pros of Bottle Feeding:
1. It’s convenient around other people. You can feed your baby without worrying about exposure in public or around relatives. Even when my mom and mother-in-law came to visit after our babies were born, I never felt comfortable just sitting down next to them and breastfeeding my baby. But bottle feeding? No problem! No risk of showing off a boob or feeling like strangers are staring at you while you’re feeding your baby. I know some people totally don’t care about that, but I definitely did, so I much prefer to bottle feed around other people.
2. Formula is designed for basically any problem babies can have. There are so many different brands and types of formula out there. There’s formula for sensitive tummies, for babies with a milk allergy, and for spit up and reflux. You only have one type of breastmilk and while you can change what you eat, it’s a hassle sometimes. You don’t have to worry about any of that with formula because there are so many different kinds.
3. Anyone can help feed your baby. You aren’t the sole provider of milk, so your husband can feed the baby, the babysitter can feed the baby, relatives can feed the baby, basically anyone you trust. So it’s less pressure on you and you’re able to get a little bit of your life back after childbirth.
4. There are lots of different kinds of nipples and bottles. Just like formula, there are different kinds of nipples and bottles for your baby. If your baby doesn’t like one bottle or nipple, you can just change it and voila! Problem solved!
5. Formula has come so far and is very similar to breastmilk. Babies who are formula fed still get the right nutrition for their needs. Formula has changed a lot in the last 20 years and it has improved and become very similar to breastmilk. You don’t have to worry about your baby not getting nutrients they need because they are all there right in the formula!
6. You get your body back to yourself. When you formula feed, there aren’t any restrictions on you. You can eat whatever you want, exercise as much as you want (without worrying about your giant milk-filled breasts getting in the way), and you can just focus on your body getting what it needs. Personally, I don’t see this as selfish because you just gave your baby 9 months, and some people just want to get back to taking care of their own body without worrying about how it will affect another. That’s totally fine.
7. You can see exactly how much milk your baby is eating. One thing I love is that you can see exactly how much formula your baby eats (or doesn’t) when you use a bottle. You can tell if they are getting enough and you can tell if they need more. That’s something that you don’t really get with breastfeeding, and it can be frustrating.
8. You can wear a dress. And whatever else you want. Like I mentioned above, you have to think about what you wear when you are breastfeeding. When you bottle feed your baby, you can wear whatever you want because your baby doesn’t need access to your chest.
9. Formula fed babies usually need to eat less often. Formula is digested at a slower rate than breastmilk, so formula fed babies don’t have to eat as often as babies who are breastfed are. That means more time doing other things and less time sitting there feeding your baby. As a mom of more than one baby, this is a huge benefit.
10. You can take whatever medicine you need without worrying how it will affect baby
Cons of Bottle Feeding:
1. It’s expensive. Even if you don’t factor in having to buy bottles and nipples, you have to buy formula. And that stuff is dang expensive. Yes, there are coupons and rewards programs that different formula brands offer, but it’s still a lot of money compared to free breastfeeding.
2. You have to find places to make bottles when you are away from home. If your baby gets hungry while you’re on-the-go, you’re going to have to find somewhere to microwave some warm water and add in your formula. And if that’s the grocery store or the state fair, it’s going to pose a challenge. Especially if your baby is already crying or fussing because he’s hungry.
3. Besides formula, you have to buy bottles and bottle cleaners. Have you ever looked at how many different kinds of bottles there are? It’s seriously outrageous. Chances are, you’re going to need more than one or two, and you’re also going to need to buy a bottle brush and maybe a bottle drying rack if you are into that. And then you’re going to have to store all that somewhere, probably in your kitchen. The price of bottle feeding adds up and it takes up a lot more space.
4. Cleaning bottles is annoying. First, you have to take them all apart. Then you have to wash every single piece. If you’re lucky, that’s only going to be three pieces. But even then, you’re going to have to wash the nipple part and make sure you get all the way inside the bottle and around the neck of it, too. It takes a while to get used to, and it’s annoying!
5. Night feedings take longer. Why? Because you have to go make the bottle first. Your baby will cry or fuss until you make it, and that can be frustrating when you’re half-asleep and trying to be quiet. Plus then you’re going to have to go wash the bottle after so you can use it again later.
6. Formula lacks antibodies. While formula is great in lots of ways, it does lack the antibodies that are in breastmilk. So while your baby will be getting all the nutrients he needs and growing strong and healthy, he will be more susceptible to illness.
7. You have to bring supplies places and it takes up space in your bag. When you are planning on bottle feeding your baby on-the-go, you have to bring the bottle and the little thing of formula you are going to make while you’re out. And in a mom’s diaper bag that’s probably already packed with diapers, wipes, your wallet, extra clothes for your baby, and a toy or two, that’s going to make things a little tight(er) than before.
Whatever you choose, own it and don’t feel bad about it. Ignore judgy looks from other people and do what is right for you. And if your plan doesn’t work and you decide to switch it up, don’t feel bad about that either. Sometimes you don’t always get to choose whether to breastfeed or bottle feed, and either way, your baby will be healthy. I had to switch to bottle-feeding both of my children before a year and they are both strong, smart, healthy little kids. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone no matter what you decide to do. It’s your body, your baby, and your choice.
Katie @ Clarks Condensed says
Definitely a lot of pros to both! Breastfeeding worked best for us (even with the rough start for Oliver!) but I’m glad there are options for everyone. And pumping does suck. A lot of women in my BF Facebook group are exclusive pampers, and it is not easy! I love dresses too. I’ve been able to accrue a good number of nursing friendly dresses, but it’s hard to find! Great post!
Chelsea Johnson says
Oh man, I respect women who are exclusive pumpers! That is impressive!! I’m glad you’ve found some nursing-friendly dresses! I loved that nursing clothes post you posted a few weeks ago!! Thanks, Katie!
Ros Emely@StressFreeMommies says
Love this, there are definitely pros and cons to both, You just have to choose which one works best for you and your baby. I didn’t breastfeed my three kids and it wasn’t by choice but I worked with what was best for me and that was bottle feeding. I loved it and I do not have any regrets. Every mom should do what’s right for her and her baby 🙂
Chelsea Johnson says
That is a great perspective! You definitely shouldn’t have any regrets! It is hard to make the choice what’s best, but when you do and it works, that’s super important!! Thanks, Ros!!
I actually love pumping! It was typically faster than feeding, and anyone could feed him. I used an old sports bra and cut two tiny holes in it, that way I don’t have to hold anything while I’m pumping….such a life saver! When I first had my son, I was so nervous and uncomfortable about feeding him in the same room as anyone. Once he was about 6 months old, I just didn’t care anymore. My baby needed to eat, and I needed a life. Hiding away in his room was just not ideal. I almost bf him for a whole year, but at 10 months old we learned that we were pregnant again. Once morning sickness kicked in, I just could not do it anymore. Good thing I had a hefty stash of frozen bm!
Chelsea Johnson says
That’s a great idea! I never would have thought to use an old sports bra! Definitely going to remember that one! And that’s awesome that you were able to get past that. I never have been able to, and I think it’s awesome when women don’t care about it! And yay for baby #2!
What a great comprehensive list! I’ve nursed, bottle-fed, and pumped at work and I found this list to be super accurate. For me, the best parts of breastfeeding were that it was so easy to feed my son at night (he wasn’t a great sleeper so a quick feed was vital) and the health benefits (he didn’t get all the colds that the other kids at daycare had). Pumping in general is not for me, but I had to pump during my lunch breaks at work. I wore a pumping bra that allowed me to be totally hands-free. I ate and fiddled around with my phone while I pumped!
Chelsea Johnson says
I’m glad you were able to make it work! You’re a boss, girl!