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The Pros & Cons of Breast Milk and Formula

By Christina Hall ; Updated June 13, 2017

Discerning the specific advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding or formula feeding a newborn can help you to decide which method to employ when feeding a newborn is of upmost importance. Most researchers and the American Academy of Pediactrics agree that breast milk is usually best for a newborn. It offers many health benefits that, at this time, are not accessible in formulas, even those meant to closely mimic human breast milk. On the other hand, sometimes breast feeding is not possible or desired; the mother has other advantages not seen while breastfeeding.

Newborn Health

The most prominent advantage to breastfeeding a newborn is the mother having the ability to pass on inherited immunity to the baby; newborns who are breastfed suffer from significantly less infections, like those in the upper respiratory system. Breast milk also contains the perfect “cocktail” for baby nutrition. It is thought of by doctors and researchers as a perfect food because it contains all the fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and enzymes that are necessary for an infant’s first years. The advantages of formula feeding a newborn are numerous if the breast milk is not viable, as in cases where the mother is on certain medications or has a deficient diet for some reason. In these cases, being able to formula feed is a great advantage.

Disadvantages are associated with each method as well. Sometimes the mother's milk does not contain the correct percetage of nutrients. It is important that the mother consult a doctor or healthcare professional about her diet and any medications that are taken. The main disadvantage with formula feeding is that the baby does not receive the "personalized" diet of nutrients in the mother's milk. Some newborns are allergic to the majority of formulas on the market as well.

Mother’s Health

In addition to breastfeeding being the most advantageous for the newborn’s health, the same is true for lactating mothers. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as osteoporosis and hip fractures. Breastfeeding has been shown to help the mother get back in shape and avoid the dangers of obesity; breastfeeding burns around 500 calories per hour. Lactation also acts as a form of birth control for the period that the baby is being nursed. If the mother gets an infection or does not have the energy to breastfeed, formula feeding is advantageous.

The mother may experience infections and fatigue while breastfeeding, especially if she does not have a lot of outside support. Formula-feeding mothers have the disadvantage of not reaping the benefits of cancer prevention and post-baby body regeneration.


It is financially advantageous to breastfeed. Formula feeding a newborn is significantly more expensive that breastfeeding. While some bottles may be needed for the breastfeeding mother to store expressed milk, a large supply of battles and nipples are necessary if the newborn is fed formula. Also, with food prices increasing around the world, the price of formula is rising exponentially.

One of the only financial disadvantages to breastfeeding is having to invest in a breast pump in order to be able to store expressed milk. Sometimes expensive breast pumps can be bought second hand, however. The financial disadvantages of formula feeding are numerous, especially if the newborn takes a long time to wean from the bottle.


Maternal bonding has been shown to be important for the mental and physical health of both parties. Many activities promote this type of bonding, but breastfeeding has been shown to be one of the most fulfilling and natural methods. On the other hand, formula feeding a newborn can be a way to help others bond with the baby by handing over some feeding responsibility to a loved one, like a spouse or parent, for example. The disadvantage of the mother having to be in close proximity to the newborn while breastfeeding is mitigated by bottle feeding as well.

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