Fed is best, but there is a difference between formula and breastfed babies

Fed is best, but there is a difference between formula and breastfed babies

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I formula fed my first three babies. And now, remarkably, I'm breastfeeding my fourth. So far, the differences are stark. While I’m still a relative rookie at breastfeeding, I can’t help but constantly compare and contrast the two feeding experiences.

What’s the difference between formula feeding and breastfeeding?

Here's the scoop on breastfeeding

Frequency – Breastfed babies eat way more often. At 4 months old, my son still nurses every 2 hours, which my pediatrician says is normal. And before he goes down for the night, he cluster-feeds every hour between 5:00 and 9:00. I feel like I’m always breastfeeding.

Digestion – More poops! For my guy, it's after every single feeding. Breastfed babies can have up to 12 bowel movements a day. OK, put down your breakfast. The poop is liquid-y, which makes for major diaper blowouts. And my baby also spits up quite a bit more than I expected, since I heard breast milk is supposed to be easy on the digestive system. This might be specific to his digestion. Either way, he’s a juicy little guy who requires frequent outfit changes.

Cost – Surprisingly, breastfeeding isn't necessarily cheaper than formula feeding. Sure, we don’t buy breast milk, but my husband and I calculated that we are buying way more diapers and wipes. I also have to stay stocked up on nursing pads and lanolin cream for sore nipples, as well as nursing bras and tops to make feeding more convenient. Breast pumps and associated supplies aren't cheap either. Bottom line: breastfeeding is far from free.

Convenience – When I'm at home, nothing beats the convenience of breastfeeding. My baby cries, I whip out my boob, stuff it in his mouth, and he's happy. I breastfeed in every room of our house, while doing all sorts of activities, from reading to older kids, to watching TV, to eating my meals. But when I'm out in public, breastfeeding is not so convenient. My son gets super frustrated if I try to cover up. I usually end up breastfeeding him in the car, which is isolating and boring. In these times, I'd prefer to bottle feed, but I hate to pump.

How it affects me – I love it, but breastfeeding takes its toll. By the end of the day I feel drained and sore. Sometimes I resent how I'm the only person who can feed our baby. It's also hard to accept that after 9 long months of pregnancy, my body still belongs to my baby and I still have to be mindful about coffee and alcohol. And that spicy Indian shrimp I ate one night? Yeah, that didn't go over so well. And breastfeeding makes me so hungry, I haven't been able to lose the baby weight. My feelings about breastfeeding teeter between pride and bitterness. My body is either overflowing with milk, or completely depleted of energy. Postpartum hormones much?

Bonus detail – Breast milk doesn't stain. This is a relief since my boobs frequently leak while I'm sleeping, and sometimes spray all over the place when my son unlatches for a moment. Oops.

Here's the scoop on formula feeding

Frequency – Formula-fed babies eat every 2 hours at first, but in my experience, I was able to stretch it to 3 hours after a short while. Either way, feedings still take up most of your day when you have a new baby.

Digestion – A formula-fed baby poops less than a breastfed baby in my experience, but -- time to pause between bites of your bagel with peanut butter -- the poop is thicker and chunkier, which can be gross. My three formula feeders didn't spit up that much, but every baby is different.

Cost – Baby formula is expensive. The cost of feeding supplies like bottles, a drying rack, a travel container, and, if you are so inclined, bottle warmer, add up. I guess no matter how you feed your baby, it isn't cheap.

Convenience – Measuring out formula and putting together bottles is a hassle, especially when your baby is hungry and fussy. I can still remember so many times when I prepared a bottle with shaking hands and a racing heart while my little one wailed in the background. I tried different methods to make this process easier, from preparing a pitcher of formula for the day, to assembling several full bottles at a time to warm up later. It got easier, but certainly was never hassle free.

How it affects me – I always felt guilty about not breastfeeding, even if I remained confident formula feeding was the right choice for me and my baby. Overall, I enjoyed formula feeding, and never worried I wasn't bonding with my babies. I loved that my husband could feed my children, as could a babysitter or grandparent. And I felt like I got my body back more quickly, in the sense that I could eat and drink what I wanted and didn't have a baby sucking on my nipples constantly. I did, however, always have a baby in my arms so it's not as if I was swimming in personal space.

Bonus detail – Formula stains bibs and clothes and so many adorable little outfits get ruined this way.

At the end of the day, no baby, mother, or feeding experience is the same and there are certainly pluses and minuses for each method. Whatever works best for you and your baby is the right way to feed.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

Watch the video: Is formula feeding OK? 2 doctors weigh in on breastfeeding vs formula (May 2022).


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