Breastfeeding vs Formula 2022

Breastmilk is nature's perfect baby food. But if you can’t breastfeed, or if you’ve chosen not to, formula milk is the next best thing. In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of breast feeding and formula feeding.

Breastfeeding vs Formula - Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Breastfeeding
- Breastfed babies are generally healthier and have a reduced chance of suffering from many types of diseases. This is because breastmilk helps protect against infection and to build a healthy immune system.
- Breastmilk is more easily digested by babies, reducing the likelihood of digestive diseases such as diarrhea or constipation.
- Breastmilk adapts to the baby's changing requirements
- Breastmilk provides babies with all of the vital nutrition and hydration they need
- Breastmilk is cheap and convenient to feed your babies wherever and whenever they need to.

Advantages of Breastfeeding for Mothers
- Breastfeeding promotes faster weight loss after birth as it burns calories and helps shrink the uterus.
- Breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum depression
- Breastfeeding promotes skin to skin contact which can enhance the emotional connection between the mother and the baby.
- Breastfeeding produces oxytocin and prolactin that naturally soothes the mother. They also promote stress reduction and positive feelings in the nursing mother.

Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable at first, especially to new mothers. It is common to get sore breasts or nipples during the first month of breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding can be time consuming for the mother.
- If the breastfeeding mother consumes alcohol, her breastmilk may affect the baby.
- The breastfeeding mother's health conditions may affect the baby.
- Breastfeeding can be difficult to carry out in public.

- Formula feeding is convenient. Formula-fed babies can be fed by anyone at any time.

- It's flexible. Breastfeeding can be difficult for mothers who are working or studying.

- Your partner can help out with nighttime feedings and share that bonding experience with your baby.

- Scheduling feedings may be easier. Formula isn't digested as quickly as breast milk, so formula-fed babies don't need to eat as often, especially in the first few months.

- You don't have to worry about what you eat. Moms who breastfeed may have to avoid certain foods that their baby can't tolerate.

- You can have a glass of wine or a cocktail once in a while. Alcohol is a no-no for women who breastfeed because they pass on tiny amounts of it to their babies.

- Formula feeding mothers can measure how much milk their babies are drinking.

Disadvantages of Formula Feeding

- Formula milk is generally not as nutritious as breastmilk. Thus, the baby's immune system may not be as strong compared to if they were breastfed.

- Formula fed babies have a higher chance of suffering from digestive issues like diarrhea, vomiting and constipation.

- Formula feeding mothers have to be wary of where they purchase their formula from as they may come across fake or expired milk.

- For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, including otitis media, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

- For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.

Scholarly Articles on Breastfeeding vs Bottle-Feeding

Effect of breastfeeding compared with formula feeding on infant body composition: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula

Growth performance comparison of exclusively breastfed infants with partially breastfed and formula fed infants

Growth patterns of breast fed and formula fed infants in the first 12 months of life: an Italian study

Breastfeeding and Child Cognitive Development

The Risks of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers and Infants

Breastfeeding and the risk for diarrhea morbidity and mortality

Efficiency of Breastfeeding as Compared to Bottle-Feeding in Very Low Birth Weight (VLBW, <1.5 kg) Infants


1. Are Breastfed Babies Really Healthier?

Yes, breastfed babies have fewer hospitalizations and infections compared to formula fed infants. This is because breastfed babies experience..
- Fewer instances of allergies, eczema, and asthma
- Fewer instances of Crohn’s disease and colitis
- Fewer speech and orthodontic problems
- Fewer cavities
- Fewer childhood cancers like leukemia and lymphomas
- Lower risk of type I and II diabetes
- Lower rates of respiratory illness
- Less likelihood of becoming obese later in childhood
- Improved brain maturation
- Greater immunity to infection

2. Are Breastfed Babies Smarter?

This study suggests that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding improves children's cognitive development.

3. Are Breastfed Babies Happier?

Breastfed babies generally grow into happier children. Infants that are breastfed for at least six months have better mental health compared to formula fed infants.

This research paper suggests that breastfeeding does have a positive impact on the mother and child's mental health.

4. Are Breastfed Babies More Clingy?

All babies are different. Some are clingy and some are not, no matter how they are fed. Breastfeeding provides not only the best nutrition for infants, but is also important for their developing brain. Breastfed babies are held a lot and because of this, breastfeeding has been shown to enhance bonding with their mother.
Babies who are breastfed for the first year of life seem to grow more rapidly in the first three or four months and then more slowly for the rest of their first year. On average, breastfed babies weigh less at age 1 than formula-fed babies. However, by the time they're 2, the gap closes and breastfed and formula-fed babies weigh about the same.

Baby Nutrition Guide

1. 0-6 months - Stage 1

Newborns should be fed either breast milk or infant formula on demand.

Breast Milk
For new-born babies, WHO advices to solely breastfeed for the first 6 months and then continue with additional nutritious foods up to 2 years old, based on you and your baby's needs. (Source)

Infant Formula Milk
In case breastfeeding doesn’t work or you choose not to breastfeed, infant formula is the only suitable alternative. It should be your baby’s only source of nutrition for the first 6 months. A formula-fed infant will drink every 3 - 4 hours and will increase as your baby grows.

According to NHS guidelines, cow’s milk and other substitutes should not be introduced as a main drink until after 1 year. Never start solids before 4 months. Source

Always seek medical advice before buying infant formula. 

Here are some infant milk formulas you can get in Malaysia..
- Enfalac A+ Step 1 (2.4 kg): RM278 > Lazada 
- Similac Step 1 (1.2 kg), RM116 > Lazada
- Nestle NAN Pro Step 1 (600g), RM76.36 > Lazada
- Anmum Infacare Step 1 (650g), RM67 >  Lazada

Water - NOT Recommended

It is recommended that you do not give babies under six months of age water. Until your little one is six months they should receive only breastmilk or formula.

Here are some of the common consequences of introducing water to babies too early..
- Lack of nutrients from milk or formula
- Slower weight gain and decreased development
- Weaker immunity
- Potential of reduced breast milk supply
- Water intoxication

For more information, check out When Can Babies Drink Water

4-6 Months Old
Most babies are ready to start solids around 5 - 6 months old. 
Some signs that show they are ready include..
- Mastering the grabbing skill
- Developing head and neck control
- Losing the tongue-thrust mechanism that automatically pushes food out of their mouth. N

Aim to feed about 1-2 tablespoons of food twice a day to your baby. Solid food shouldn't replace milk as the main source of nutrients. 

2. 6-12 months - Stage 2

At 6 months, parents will usually introduce more foods into their baby’s diet, so the amount of milk they will need will gradually decrease. For both formula-fed and breastfed babies, the amount of milk they drink should naturally adjust according to how much food they have eaten.

However, for babies 6 to 9 months old, most of their calories should still come from breast milk or formula. Don’t stress about getting them to eat bite after bite of solid food. Feed up to two meals daily (or once every couple of days for some babies), with each meal 2 to 4 tablespoons. 

Suitable baby foods include iron-fortified single-grain baby cereal along with pureed vegetables, fruits, and meats. You can also try offering finger foods like cut vegetables, fruit, yogurt and cheese. However, try not to introduce more than one food at a time to identify possible allergies or digestive problems. 

Water can be introduced in small amounts with meals. It is generally advised not to give your baby more than 100ml to 150ml a day. As they age, you may start introducing more water with the help of sippy cups and straws. 

For a more detailed guide on introducing water to your baby, do check out When Can Babies Drink Water .

If they seem to have an endless appetite or don’t seem to be eating enough, contact your child specialist.

9-12 Months Old

At this age, about half of your baby’s calories may usually come from food and the other half from breast milk or formula.

Babies these age are usually interested in trying new foods, so you can try to give them small pieces of your own meals. If they want more, give them more, but if they push it away, maybe that item is just not their one of their favourites.

Babies like to play with their food, so you can try using yogurt, cheese or oats as a sauce for vegetables or whole-grain crackers. Just remember to cut the foods properly and to avoid hard pieces to prevent choking.

3. 12 months onwards - Stage 3

Summary : Feed breast milk, dairy milk (cow / goat / etc), alternative plant based milk (soy), more soft / semi solid foods. Seek medical advice before feeding non breast milk alternatives.

Children will usually start to eat larger, more regular meals and get most of their nutrition from foods other than milk. WHO recommends that babies continue to be breast fed up to 2 years and beyond, but they may begin to need less breast milk as they eat more food.

After 12 months, your baby may not need formula milk anymore as they can start drinking cow’s milk and other alternatives more regularly.

Below are some of the main types of milk that may be given at this stage.

Cow’s Milk - For children under 2, choose full-fat cow’s milk. Semi-skimmed doesn’t have the same nutrient profile in terms of vitamins and minerals and has less energy. 

Goat’s / Sheep’s Milk - Their nutrient profiles are similar to cow’s milk so as long as they’re pasteurised, they’re alright to offer. 

Soya Drinks & Other Milk Alternatives - As part of a healthy, balanced diet, soya, oat, almond and other vegetable based milks can be offered or used in cooking. However, they are usually not as nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk. Furthermore, not all brands fortify with the same nutrients.

2 years and above
Summary : Feed cow's milk or alternative, and a balanced diet. Formula milk as an addition if the child is not receiving enough nutrients.

Children will start to eat a more varied, balanced diet and may rely less on milk. You may adjust how much milk you give them based on their diet throughout the week. If your child's diet doesn’t include dairy, you should consider how you can replace any nutrients they might be missing out on, such as formula milk or alternative foods.


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