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Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding

Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding

Breastfeeding and bottle feeding formula are both good options for feeding your baby.

Medically reviewed by a board-certified pediatrician

When it comes to how you feed your baby, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. According to Dr. Michelle Bennett, a board-certified pediatrician at Ellison Pediatrics, “Some parents will breastfeed, some parents will bottle feed, and some will do both.” Both breast milk and formula can provide adequate nutrition for a growing infant, “and the decision to use one or the other should be based on individual circumstances and preferences,” Dr. Bennett adds.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common breastfeeding and bottle-feeding questions to help you decide which type of feeding could work best for you and your baby.

Can I Breastfeed and Use Formula?

Many parents think they need to choose between breastfeeding and formula, but it doesn't have to be an either-or decision. Lots of parents feed their infants both breast milk and formula at some point during their baby's first few months. Offering both is commonly known as supplementing or combination feeding, and some surveys suggest supplementing may help moms breastfeed longer.

Do Bottles Cause Nipple Confusion?

Babies can experience nipple confusion, but that’s not necessarily due to the bottle versus the breast. Sometimes it can simply be due to a nipple preference. If you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding, your baby may understandably be surprised by a new nipple providing nourishment. You can experiment with different nipple styles to find ones that work best for your baby.

How Do I Switch From Breast Milk to Formula?

There are many reasons parents may want to transition from breast milk to formula. Perhaps mom is returning to work, would like a more flexible feeding schedule, or maybe there’s a medical concern. Whether you want to supplement breast milk or switch entirely, you can be confident that formula will give your baby the nutrition they need to thrive. Here are some tips for switching from breast milk to infant formula:

  • If you plan to supplement, wait until your baby is three to four weeks old to help ensure you have an established milk supply.
  • Transition gradually. Start by replacing one breastfeeding session a day with formula.
  • When feeding your baby a bottle, cradle your little one in an upright, almost sitting position. To allow your baby to control the speed of the formula flow, hold the bottle at an angle tilted just enough to fill the nipple.
  • Since a breastfed baby will associate mama with mealtime, the baby may transition to the bottle more easily if someone other than mom gives those first bottles. Also, if mom has been using a particular chair or location for feeding, moving those initial bottle feeds to somewhere else in the home can be a good idea. Babies are perceptive, and those little cues matter.

Will Formula Feeding Decrease My Milk Supply?

Adding formula to your baby's diet after your milk supply is established won’t necessarily make your milk disappear. Typically, your milk production adjusts so that you produce the amount your infant needs. That being said, the less you nurse, the more your milk supply will drop.

To increase your milk supply, you can:

  • Boost the number of breastfeeding sessions. Milk production has a supply and demand relationship.
  • Offer both breasts during feedings and empty them completely. Hand express or pump if necessary.
  • Pump or express milk often between feedings, which can also help you avoid breast engorgement.
  • Lactation supplements, including teas and herbs, have been traditionally used to help moms increase milk supply, but check with your doctor before starting any supplements.

For professional guidance on how to increase milk supply, consider talking to a lactation consultant. They’re specially trained to help moms manage breastfeeding issues.

Are Breastfed Babies Healthier?

While breast milk has benefits that infant formula doesn't yet replicate, our Enfamil infant formulas have a range of nutrients and other ingredients to help support your baby’s health, growth, and development, such as:

  • Prebiotics that help support the immune system.
  • The fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) that help support your baby’s brain and eye development.
  • Some of our formulas have additional components found in breast milk, such as lactoferrin, which helps support digestive health.

We also have formulas with targeted nutrition for babies with cow's milk protein allergy and other sensitivities.

Will Formula Feeding Prevent Me From Bonding With My Baby?

Cuddles, kisses, warmth, and comfort happen whether you bottle feed formula or breastfeed. Your baby doesn't know how they’re being fed, only that they’re held, loved, and nourished. Bottle feeding can be a truly rewarding experience for both of you as you create special moments together. So, if formula feeding lowers your stress levels and keeps you and your baby happy, that's a win for the two of you.

These tips can help promote bonding while formula feeding:

  • Feed your baby in a quiet, comfy spot free of distractions such as a TV or loud noises.
  • Sing to your little one. They won’t care if you don’t have perfect pitch.
  • Unbutton your shirt and enjoy skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
  • Gaze into your baby’s eyes. That prolonged eye contact can help strengthen your bond.

What Are the Advantages of Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding has advantages for both mom and baby, says Dr. Bennett, including:

  • Breast milk has antibodies, infection-fighting cells, and prebiotics.
  • The body is good at absorbing the nutrients in breast milk.
  • It’s free to produce your own breast milk.
  • Some moms like the convenience of breastfeeding compared to bottle feeding.

What Are the Advantages of Formula Feeding?

Dr. Bennett explains, “If breastfeeding isn’t an option for you, leaning towards mostly or exclusively formula feeding is best for you,” with some advantages, such as:

  • Infant formula is a nutritious option for feeding your little one.
  • Any caregiver can feed formula to the baby, giving mom a much-needed break.
  • Purchasing donated breast milk can be more expensive than purchasing good quality formula.

Do Babies Get More Milk From Breast or Bottle?

Babies tend to drink more formula than breast milk because milk flows out of the bottle faster than a breast in most cases. However, Dr. Bennett notes, “Breastfed babies may need to eat more often than formula-fed babies because they’re able to digest breast milk faster.” Most babies eat every 2 to 3 hours in the beginning. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about options for feeding your baby so you can find the right balance for you.

How Do You Supplement With Formula?

To supplement with formula, you can offer your baby a bottle of formula in addition to breastfeeding or offer formula instead of breastfeeding in situations where breastfeeding is not possible or practical. Dr. Bennett advises working with your healthcare provider to ensure that your baby gets the right amount of formula and adequate nutrition, and to monitor their growth and development.

What’s the Cost and Convenience Difference Between Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding?

When navigating the finances and convenience of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, Dr. Bennett explains that “formula can be a convenient option for parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed.” Allowing multiple caregivers to take an active role in feeding the baby gives the mother more flexibility in her daily routine.

If you’re considering using donated breast milk instead of formula, the cost may be higher than formula since the milk needs to be obtained from a milk bank and undergo screening and processing to ensure safety and quality. However, Dr. Bennett adds, “Donated breast milk may provide benefits that formula cannot, such as immune-boosting properties and beneficial bacteria that can help establish a healthy gut microbiome in the baby.”

Ultimately, breast milk is generally considered the ideal source of nutrition for infants, but formula can be a safe and effective alternative when breastfeeding is not possible or practical.

The Bottom Line on Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

Try not to stress over the choice between breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Ultimately, it's not about breast milk versus formula; it's about what's best for you and your little one.

Dr. Bennett emphasizes that “a lot of mothers can take advantage of both,” and your approach may change as your baby grows or as you have more children. “Just be sure to fine-tune your plans with the guidance of your healthcare provider,” she advises.

Explore Enfamil Family Beginnings® for More Baby Feeding Tips and Support

Whether you’re exclusively formula feeding, supplementing, or transitioning to formula, Enfamil is here to help support your baby’s nutritional needs at every age and stage. For more tips and resources on all things baby, be sure to join Enfamil Family Beginnings®. Enjoy up to $400 in savings, plus exclusive rewards, support, and surprises.

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All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.