Formula vs. Breast Milk: What Choice is Right for Your Baby?

Figuring out how you will feed your baby is a big decision. You may choose to breastfeed your baby, bottle feed them with formula, or a combination of both. Unfortunately, the subject of breast versus bottle feeding has been controversial, causing some mothers to feel guilt or even shame for their choice. This isn't good for the mother or baby. Ideally, you should weigh the options, considering the pros and cons of each, then make the best decision for you.  

We have the information you need to make the right choice for your baby.    

Related: Can Babies Drink Juice? Here's When to Start

What is Formula?

The ingredients will vary depending on the brand of formula you choose. But typically, the baby formula contains processed skimmed cow's milk with emulsifiers and stabilizers to mix the water and oils. Some also contain:

  • Lactose (natural sugar in milk) with other sugars like fructose, corn syrup, or maltodextrin
  • Fatty acids (from fish oil)
  • Plant-based oils like rapeseed, palm, coconut, soybean, and sunflower oil
  • Enzymes and amino acids
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Probiotics (in some formulas)

Note: Some formulas have more specialized ingredients. 

Formulas aim to duplicate the nutrition and benefits of breastmilk without making babies obese. 

The Pros & Cons of Formula Feeding

Here are the pros and cons of bottle-feeding your baby. 


  • Other family members can feed the baby when you're busy
  • Formula-fed babies don't have to feed as often as breastfed babies
  • You can keep track of how much your baby is drinking
  • The other parent and other family members can bond with the baby while feeding


  • You need to mix and prepare formula correctly before you can feed your baby
  • Formula, bottles, etc., can be expensive
  • Formula doesn't give the same protection from infection and disease as breastmilk
  • Formulas can cause your baby digestive problems

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What is Breast Milk?

Breastmilk is, of course, produced by the mother with a multitude of benefits beginning at the beginning. The first milk is colostrum, which coats and protects your baby's stomach lining and gives them what they need in those early days. Then the milk matures as your baby does, all the time providing the nutrients and protection they need at each stage

Breast milk contains:

  • Stem cells for organ development and repair
  • Antibodies to fight sickness
  • Beneficial bacteria for your baby's digestive system
  • Hormones for support bonding and your baby's health appetite
  • White blood cells for fighting infection
  • Enzymes for your baby's digestive and immune systems
  • Prebiotics for your baby's gut health
  • Nucleotides and hormones that help with good sleep-wake cycles
  • Long-chain fatty acids that support your baby's brain, eyesight, and nervous system

Due to the chanes breastmilk undergoes during your little one's babyhood, it is a living fluid. It doesn't just generally change as your baby grows; research shows that it also adapts to your baby's specific needs. So, if your baby should become ill, your milk will change to provide the white blood cells and antibodies they need to get better. 

With all that we know about the benefits of breastmilk, more research is still taking place to explore its complexity and protective properties.   

A woman bottle-feeding a small baby in her bedroom


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The Pros & Cons of Breast Feeding

Here are the good and bad of breastfeeding your baby. 


  • Breastmilk is free! Some breastfeeding accessories may cost, like nursing bras, pumps, etc., but most of these are optional
  • No prep work is required for breastfeeding
  • Promotes a healthy digestive system
  • Strengthens your baby's immune system
  • Has all the nutrients and minerals your baby needs at all stages of development
  • Protects your baby from ear infections, bacterial and viral infections, and pneumonia
  • Some research shows that it boosts your baby's intelligence 
  • Protects preemie health
  • Prevents SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Pros for the Mother

  • It helps the mother's uterus to shrink postpartum 
  • The calories used to make the milk helps facilitate the loss of your baby weight
  • Promotes hormones (Oxytocin) that support bonding with your baby 
  • Lowers your risk of several diseases - heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, etc.
  • Reduces risk of postpartum depression 

The longer you choose to breastfeed, the greater the benefits for you and your baby. 


  • Only the breastfeeding parent can feed the baby
  • Breastfed babies need to feed more often (breastmilk is quickly digested)
  • You can't measure how much your baby is drinking
  • You may suffer from sore nipples and other discomforts in the beginning
  • You have to be careful of the foods, drinks, and medications you consume

Formula vs. Breast Milk: Are They Similar?

There are similarities between formula and breastmilk. They both provide nutrition, hydration, and energy to babies. Unfortunately, the complexities of breastmilk cannot be duplicated in the manufacturing of formula. 

Breastmilk is the perfect food for your human baby. It meets the requirements to build and support your baby's superior brain, immune system, and digestive system. But formula (based on cow's milk) is made to meet the nutritional requirements of calves, not humans. It must undergo intense processing to make it safe for human babies.  

Can You Use Both Means of Feeding?

It might be necessary for you to use both means of feeding. If you have a job outside the home or for other reasons, you can breastfeed in the morning and evening and use bottles with formula during your working hours. Whatever your reasons, you may choose to do both. 

Things to consider: 

  • Nipple confusion (between your nipples and the bottle nipples)
  • Finding a brand of formula that works for your baby
  • Cuddle your baby often and use skin-to-skin to stimulate milk production 

Related: Advice for New Parents: 5 Things You Need to Know


A young baby drinking from a bottle


Doing What's Best for Your Baby (and You)

We believe breastfeeding is best for babies and mothers. But if you can't breastfeed for any reason or choose not to, the important thing is to love and nurture your baby in the best ways you can. 

Do you love gifts? Our baby subscription boxes contain expertly chosen, stage-based baby products every month - plus there's a gift for mommy. Check out 123 Baby Box to learn more.

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