Infant Feeding: Breast or Bottle?En Español (Spanish Version)
You are a new mother or are anticipating the birth of your child. As you prepare for your baby's arrival, there may be many questions you may have. One might be: Should I breastfeed?
Here are some points to consider when deciding to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
Proper nourishment—Breast milk contains almost all of the
nourishment that babies need during their first 6 months of
supplementation is needed because breast milk is low in this vitamin. Supplementation with vitamin D will need to be continued until your baby is getting enough vitamin D from other sources, such as vitamin D-fortified formula or sun. Starting at age 4 months, your baby will also need an
supplement until he or she starts getting enough iron from food sources, like infant cereal. If your baby is
premature, he or she will likely need to take iron starting at 1 month.
- Immunity boost—Breast milk contains substances not found in formula that help
protect babies from illness. These substances include antibodies, immunoglobulins, active
enzymes, and hormones.
Fewer illnesses—Compared with bottlefed infants,
breastfed infants are less likely to develop:
Possible protection against certain conditions—Breastfed infants may have protection against
sudden infant death syndrome,
type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes,
asthma, atopic dermatitis, and leukemia.
- Boost to brain development—The nutrients found in breastmilk enhance how your baby's brain develops. Breastfeeding may even have a positive impact on your child's IQ and school performance.
- Easy digestion—Breast milk is easy for babies to
- Bonding—The skin-to-skin contact involved in
breastfeeding can enhance bonding between mother and baby.
- Jaw development—Sucking at the breast promotes good jaw
development. It is harder to get milk from the breast than from a
Women who breastfeed their babies experience the following
- Less postpartum bleeding
- More rapid shrinkage of the uterus to pre-pregnancy size
- Quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight—Milk production
- Slower return of menstrual cycles
Possible reduced risk of:
Both parents will likely appreciate the convenience of
- Breast milk is available, sterile, and free.
- There is no formula to buy, measure, and mix.
- There are no bottles and nipples to sterilize.
- Stress for mom—You are the sole provider
of nutrition for your baby, which can be very demanding and
exhausting. However, once a pattern is established, other family
members can give you a break by feeding the baby a bottle of breast
milk that has been pumped and stored in the refrigerator or
- Slow start—You may have difficulty getting the baby
to properly latch onto the breast.
Possible pain—Breastfeeding can be painful. You may have sore
nipples, clogged milk ducts,
- Medicine precautions—Some medicines can pass through the breast milk to your baby and may not be safe. Drugs can also interfere with how much milk you produce. Talk to you healthcare provider before taking prescription and over-the-counter medicine, as well as herbs and supplements.
If you are unsure as to whether you want to breastfeed, you can
try it for a few weeks and switch if it does not work out. Any
amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for the baby. Once bottlefeeding is started, though, it is difficult to switch back to the
- Proper nutrition—Commercially prepared formulas (which
are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration) supply the appropriate combinations of
proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins to meet a baby's nutritional
requirements; supplements are not usually necessary. But, if your baby is not eating enough vitamin D fortified formula, a supplement may be needed.
- Bonding—Although there is no skin-to-skin contact,
cuddling while feeding can enhance bonding.
- Less dependence on you—Anyone can feed the baby. This makes it easier if you work
or if you cannot or do not want to be the sole provider of the milk.
- The possibility of allergy—Cow's milk formulas contain a
different type of protein than breast milk, and some infants may be
allergic to it or have trouble digesting it. These babies can be
given soy milk formula, although some may be allergic to soy
protein, too, and would require a hydrolyzed formula.
- A lot of preparation—Bottlefeeding requires a lot of
organization and preparation; you will need to have enough
formula on hand and have bottles and nipples clean and ready.
- A significant expense—In today's economic climate, many foods, including formula can be costly.
- Freshness not guaranteed—Formula can go bad, so you will
need to check expiration dates and avoid damaged containers.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Women's Health Information Center
Breastfeeding. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 17, 2014. Accessed December 30, 2014.
Breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding. American Pregnancy Organization website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/breastfeedingandbottle.html. Accessed December 30, 2014.
Casey CF, Slawson DC, Neal LR. Vitamin D Supplementation in Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(6):745-748.
Johnston M, Landers S, Noble L, et al. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):827-841.
Nutrition (pediatric preventive care). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 22, 2014. Accessed December 30, 2014.
Why breastfeeding is important. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/why-breastfeeding-is-important/index.html. Updated May 28, 2014. Accessed December 30, 2014.
10/12/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Baker R, Greer F, the Committee on Nutrition. Clinical report—diagnosis and prevention of iron
deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and
young children (0-3 years of age). Pediatrics. 2010;126(5):1040-1050.
2/1/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding.
Cochrane Database System Rev. 2012;8:CD003517.
3/18/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Martin RM, Patel R, Kramer MS, et al. Effects of promoting longer-term and exclusive breastfeeding on adiposity and insulin-like growth factor-I at age 11.5 years: a randomized trial.
JAMA. 2013 Mar 13;309(10):1005-13.
Last Reviewed December 2014