Man, having a new baby to care for feels like living in the middle of whirlwind. Those first few hours and days and weeks fly by in the blink of an eye. It’s amazing that caring for such a tiny person can be so incredibly time-consuming!
Of all the bazillion and one decisions to made surrounding pregnancy and birth, perhaps the most pressing is this: how are you going to feed baby?
I really don’t think the reason why this issue is pressing needs any explanation…
Yet, there is a pretty important decision to be made, and that is whether or not you are going to bottle feed formula or breastfeed.
Ok, so I’m going to be honest: I breastfeed. I attend La Leche League. I’m hands down a breastfeeding champion. I can give you some of the reasons to choose bottle feeding, and I get those reasons, I really really do, but my heart is for breastfeeding, if at all possible. And coming from a monetary perspective, which this blog is all about, breastfeeding is DEFINITELY the cheaper option. But I’ll give you, from my perspective, the pros and cons about each. Just bein’ fair.
Formula Feeding- The Pros
Olivia has never had a drop of formula in her life, so I don’t know a whole lot about formula feeding. But I do know that it is a wonderful option for families who adopt (although even adoptive mothers can breastfeed and produce milk… did you know that?), for families whose children split time between parents, or for families who are very busy and need a versatile feeding option. Formula has been a wonderful invention for the small percentage of women who discover that they cannot breastfeed after birth. Formula also helps moms who need extra recovery time get that R&R while dad or another caregiver feed baby. And of course mama can bond with baby while bottle feeding- by snuggling close and making eye contact while doing it!
Formula Feeding- The Cons
While formula feeding might be a versatile option for many moms, there are some pretty big drawbacks. The biggest, in my mind, is that formula feeding costs you: money and time. Formula, especially the healthier more optimal options, can be expensive even with coupons, and can run you between $1,200-$3,000 per year or more. And few mamas can afford to exclusively use the instant formula variety, and therefore end up spending several minutes on either end of a feed both prepping the bottle and then cleaning the bottle. Another major drawback is that formula just simply is not as optimal for baby’s health. Yes, there are plenty of wonderful nutrients packed into formula, and they really have a come long way toward matching breastmilk. But there simply cannot be a man-made match for what God has created in each woman’s body.
Breastfeeding- The Pros
Ah, breastfeeding. Now that is something I do know a thing or two about. Here are a few of the things I love about breastfeeding.
- It is portable. It was so nice to be able to leave the house every day and not have to worry about packing all the necessary items to keep baby fed. Anytime, anywhere. Baby’s hungry, and mama is ready.
- Despite what the campaigns may tell you, you can breastfeed lying down. This was huge during my ceasarean recovery especially when it was hard to sit up, much less be holding a baby across my tummy. I am not going to get into the politics of lying down to feed and sleeping next to baby, but just realize that this is a perfectly healthy, normal way to feed, and you don’t have to fall asleep doing it.
- It pacifies baby. Breastfeeding is not just about getting nutrients into baby. It is a lot about building a relationship with baby and about comforting baby. Ever wonder why they invented pacifiers? Just about the only thing babies are born knowing how to do is sucking, and it is extremely soothing to them to be able to do just that. One of the biggest ways I have used this “tool” in my mama arsenal is this: Olivia taken a few plane trips in her young life, and the thing that has kept her in good spirits (and kept the surrounding passengers in good spirits too), is the fact that I could breastfeed and keep her pacified (it also helps get rid of that nasty pressure that builds up in your ears).
- Breastfeeding is healthy. Did you know that breastmilk actually changes composition as baby grows and changes? The milk that flowed right after birth is entirely different from the stuff she gets during her occasional feed now, nearly a year later. It is custom tailored to meet the nutritional needs of the baby. And not only that, but it is packed full of antibodies to help fight infections and transfer immunities from mom to child, something formula can’t do. I don’t know all the biological details, but the La Leche League is a wonderful resource for more information.
- It feels good. Literally- breast feeding releases oxytocin- the “feel good” hormone in mom. How sweet!
Breastfeeding- The Cons
If you exclusively breast feed then, well, you’re it. You’re the only one who can feed baby. This works just fine for stay-at-home moms, but not so well for mama’s who work or who need to travel. You can pump and feed- it just requires more time and equipment, although if you get a good pump, it really isn’t that much more time consuming than formula feeding (I have a friend who does this full-time). Another issue is that if something suddenly happens and mom gets sick or has to be hospitalized or go out of town for a few days, baby is still going to need to be fed! To combat this, I pumped extra at different times and stored it in the freezer for “just in case” times. I also know that some moms (including my own!) give their babies one formula bottle a day, both to get a break AND so that if something happened to mom, the child would be ready to receive a formula bottle, no big deal.
Finding What Fits
We’ve chosen to exclusively breast feed, and although there were times I hated waking up at 3 am, the good has far outweighed the bad. I have absolutely no regrets about my decision, and I hope that you find the right fit for you too! The trick is finding the right balance for you and your situation- financially, relationally, etc. When it comes to feeding baby we are blessed to have options (although you might consider that a curse sometimes when making a simple decision becomes a big debate!).
A few links you might like for more info are the following:
- I found this great article that explores some of the cost associated with breast feeding versus bottle feeding, and the wide spectrum in between!
- Like I said at the beginning of the post, I have been a regular La Leche League, an international breast feeding organization, attender from the time I was pregnant on, and I always tell other moms to check LLL out if they are even thinking about breast feeding. I have gleaned so much information and support from my little local group, and it only begins with feeding. I think of my LLL as my own little parenting support group, really! If you are wary of the LLL because you’ve “heard they are kind of militant”- can I just ask you to keep an open mind and give it a try? My group and leaders are a wonderful resource. They are all kind, and open to all sorts of differing opinions- there is so much diversity even among the few in my local group! And they are dedicated to helping moms succeed in breast feeding in the face of all sorts of obstacles, which I think is hugely important.
How About You?
What has your experience been? Have anything to add to the pros and cons in this list? I’m sure I have not exhausted everything! And does anyone have any tips for keeping the cost of formula feeding down? Leave a comment!