Breastfeeding Guide: Breastfeeding Vs. Formula, How And How Long To Breastfeed

Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has been associated with positive child emotional development, especially the strengthening of the child-mother relationship.

To breastfeed or not is a question that millions of moms solve every day. In this article, you’ll find answers to the most common breastfeeding questions, like how to breastfeed, how long you should breastfeed, the benefits of breastfeeding vs. formula, etc. 

As moms with experience in breastfeeding and formula feeding (both theoretical and practical), we know all the main issues that young mothers face after their baby’s birth. Here you’ll find support and solutions based on science and our experiences. 


Article Content: 


Importance Of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding means a happy and healthy start for your baby with a life-long positive effect. Breastfeeding lactation is an easy way to save lives, time, and money. 

According to UNICEF and The World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding should be done within the first hour after birth, infants should only be breastfed for the first six months of life, and breastfeeding should be continued in addition to other foods for two or more years. For the first six months, about 41% of babies are breastfed exclusively, and 45% of infants are breastfed for the first two years of life [1]

According to our biology, the most natural weaning age is between 2.5 and 7 years. It makes sense to build our kids’ bones from the milk that was designed just for them [2]. 

Not breastfeeding and not following WHO and UNICEF’s recommendations can lead to terrible health as well as future economic and human capital losses. According to the estimations made by Alive & Thrive (a global nutrition initiative aimed to save lives and ensure healthy development), not breastfeeding babies can globally bring: 

  • 595,379 childhood deaths (6 to 59 months) from diarrhea and pneumonia each year
  • 974,956 cases of childhood obesity annually
  • 98,243 deaths from breast and ovarian cancers as well as type II diabetes among women each year
  • Health system treatment costs of US $1.1 billion annually [3].

Keep reading to see the benefits of breastfeeding for moms and babies and a breastfeeding vs. formula analysis. 

To Breastfeed Or Not? Breastfeeding Vs. Formula

Whether to breastfeed a baby or not is a question that each mom solves individually, according to her internal feelings and physical opportunities. There are dozens of arguments for or against breastfeeding. Here, we’ll discuss the most famous cases and myths. 

To find an answer, look at the table below. 

Breastfeeding vs. Formula

BreastfeedingFormula
For freeBig cost – the high-quality baby formula is expensive 
Ideal temperature, always with youAlways need to heat and renew stock
Mom’s milk perfectly suits her baby and changes according to the baby’s needs and development.Need to spend extra time and select necessary stage (if European) and check ingredients carefully 
It contains enzymes that help to digest breast milk
It helps to build a stronger immune system. Has immunoglobulins – immunity that a mom passes on to her baby
Contains founder cells and HAMLET complex (cells able to destroy some cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed)
It contains components that boost faster brain development for babies
It prevents dental caries and malocclusion, decreases diarrhea rates and severity, decreases the risk of respiratory infections and acute otitis media, and also helps babies and older children to fight infections [1]
Lower risk of atopic dermatitis, asthma and leukemia [4]
Creates a more strong connection between mom and childCreates a less strong relationship between mom and child
Breastfeeding provides a newborn with a feeling of safety and has a calming effect
Has advantages for both mom and babyHas advantages only for a baby 

Find out more benefits of breastfeeding a baby from this image [5].

Benefits of breastfeeding
Benefits of breastfeeding

Myth 1. Baby formula satisfies your infant’s need for food better and for a longer time than breast milk. A formula-fed baby sleeps better. 

True. A newborn needs more time to digest baby formula, as there are no enzymes that breast milk is rich in. Breast milk is digested in approximately 1.5 hours, while baby formula takes around 3 hours and needs more resources from your baby. That’s why they sleep better – they don’t have enough power and energy to stay awake. 

Breastfeeding has been associated with positive child emotional development, especially the strengthening of the child-mother relationship. Not only does breastfeeding help both of you through the stressful times of raising a child, but also boosts your child’s immune system and ensures that they can fight diseases easily. Every mother should consider breastfeeding to guarantee that their child is as healthy as they can be [2].

Breastfeeding plays a significant role in women’s health and wellbeing. Mothers who breastfeed for a long time have a lower risk of maternal breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease [1].

Breastfeeding women have a lower risk of excessive menstrual blood loss, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis [4]. 

Nursing also reduces the risk of postpartum depression and premature mortality from serious diseases later in life [3]. 

Breastfeeding burns calories – minus 200-500 kcal a day, equal to 1.5 hours of cycling. 

The benefits of breastfeeding are long-term, and not just personal to you and your baby. It has a positive impact nationally and internationally from an economic and a medical perspective. Having less health issues results in less stress on healthcare systems and local economies, fewer medical costs, and less time being taken off from work [1].

Each Breast Milk Drop Matters Or How Long Should I Breastfeed?

We like to plan everything in our life. We like to be confident in our future. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis made our future-planning process more and more complicated. The same story is true with planning our breastfeeding. 

Case 2 “I understand the benefits of breastfeeding, but can’t do it for a long time (reasons are very different)”

Each drop of breast milk matters. Even if your breastfeeding didn’t go according to your initial plan, be sure that even a few days of breastfeeding are important for a baby’s health. It’s better to nurse for a short time than to not do it at all. 

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for just a few days? Well, the early milk you produce (colostrum) is the food your baby’s body expects, helping to keep their digestive system working properly. Not only that, but it also provides your baby with antibodies, which work as the first – and most simple – way of providing your baby with essential immunization.  

If you breastfeed your baby for longer than this, the benefits will be greater. So, if you breastfeed for 4-6 weeks, this will help your baby at a critical point of their infancy, and will give you enough time to deal with any initial breastfeeding problems. If you can make a serious plan to breastfeed for at least a month then your baby will experience the benefits of a significantly reduced risk of getting sick, being hospitalized, and getting SIDS. After this, consult with professionals to decide whether continued breastfeeding is for you. 

Breastfeeding for 3-4 months will allow your baby’s digestive system to develop further so that your baby will be better able to tolerate the ingredients found in infant formula.

However, feeding your baby on only breast milk for the first 6 months without any other substances will help protect your baby’s health throughout their first year of life (with fewer gastrointestinal issues, plus ear and respiratory infections). It will also reduce your own risk of developing breast cancer. 6 months is the time recommended by the WHO and The National Health and Medical Research Council to wait until starting your baby on solid foods. 

Breastfeeding your baby for 9 months will ensure that they are well-nourished through the most important parts of their brain and body’s development with the sustenance that was specifically designed for them. To avoid weaning at this point, make sure that breastfeeding is not just used for food from the start of their life, but also for comfort.

Breastfeeding for an entire year, as advised by The National Health and Medical Research Council, will help you avoid the expensive costs of baby formula. By this point, your baby can probably eat most of the foods that you eat too. The benefits of breastfeeding for an entire year will last for your child’s whole life, reducing the risks of childhood cancers such as leukemia as well as the risk of needing orthodontic treatment. It will also ensure that the bond between you and your baby is strong and that your baby is as healthy as they can be.

Although you do not need to breastfeed your baby for this long, breastfeeding for 18 months will continue to ensure that your baby is nourished, comfortable, and well-protected from illnesses at a time when illness is common in babies who are no longer breastfed. The longer you breastfeed, the stronger your bond will be, allowing them to become even more independent.

If you wean your child when they are ready to be weaned, your baby’s physical and emotional requirements will have been met in a healthy way. In some cultures where parents are not pressured to wean their children early, babies are breastfed for at least 2 years.

UNICEF and WHO recommend breastfeeding through toddlerhood as breast milk is not only a good source of protein and energy, but can help your baby fight against illnesses in their second year of life. 

If you’re concerned that your child will breastfeed indefinitely if you don’t wean them early, do not worry. No matter what you do, all children stop breastfeeding on their own. 

Don’t forget: the decision to breastfeed is yours. Regardless of how long you breastfeed, know that you will never regret your decision. If you find the idea of weaning to be difficult, remember that this is a big change for you and your baby [2].

Myth 2. After the first year of feeding, breast milk becomes empty. Mom transfers her hormones to her baby and long-term feeding may lead to the baby developing mental illnesses. 

True. Breast milk is still rich in vitamins, minerals, and microelements. It helps in iron absorption and has 3 times more calories than zucchini and 2 times more than kid’s yogurt.  

How to Breastfeed?

Signs of a hungry baby:

  • smacking his lips
  • suckling motions
  • moving his head around in search of your breast
  • squirming and kicking
  • cry (don’t wait, this is a late signal) 

Your baby may give you the above signals as frequently as once per hour in the days after birth. Don’t worry about it – it’s completely normal.

Myth 3. Flat nipples aren’t intended for breastfeeding. 

True.  A newborn sucks an areola (around the nipples), not a nipple itself. That means you can breastfeed with any kind of nipples, even if someone tells you: “With your nipples, it’s impossible.”

Remember that the longer your child breastfeeds, the higher your breast milk’s fat content will be. If you only breastfeed your baby in short bursts, they may not be able to fully enjoy the benefits of your breast milk, making your breasts feel engorged and painful [7].

How Often To Breastfeed? 

  • Frequent breastfeeding (not less than every 2-3 hours in the day and every 4 hours at night).
  • Breastfeed on demand, not on a schedule.
  • Feed as long as the baby wants, not less than 20 min from one breast for one session.
  • First finish with one breast, then offer your baby the second one, if needed. If not, propose that breast first next time.
  • Don’t wash your breast with soap – it will remove a protective antibacterial layer.
  • Don’t express breast milk without a strong need; an exception to this is when your breast is full of milk and you feel engorged.
  • Don’t use a sucker (breast pump) without a strong need – it may cause a hyperlactation. The more you use a sucker, the more milk your breasts produce.

Enough Milk?

The following points answer a common question: Do I produce enough milk?”. Everything is okay if:

  • A newborn’s weight increases no less than 125 grams/week in the first 3-4 months
  • Wetting diapers no less than 8-10 times a day 

Breastfeeding Holds

When breastfeeding, it is important to get into the right position so that both you and your baby are comfortable and so that there are no problems with the breastfeeding process. There are many ways you can make yourself comfortable. Pillows can be placed behind your back or neck or under your arms or elbows to give you support. If you’re still not comfortable, try some other positions.

Don’t forget that nursing shouldn’t be painful [8].

Breastfeeding holds
Breastfeeding holds

Cross-cradle or transitional hold: this hold gives the baby extra head support, helping them stay latched, which is useful for premature children or babies with a weak suck. To perform this hold, support your baby by placing your palm on the back of their neck, and hold them opposite your breast.

Clutch or “football” hold: this position is helpful if you had a C-section (cesarean section), if you have inverted or flat nipples, if you have big breasts, if your baby is more comfortable being upright, or if you have an overpowering let-down reflex. To successfully imitate this position, hold your baby, lying on their back with their head opposite your nipple, at your side. Make sure to hold the base of their head with your palm to offer them support.

Cradle hold: this is one of the easiest holds, and is comfortable for both mothers and babies. With your baby’s body facing you, hold your baby’s head with your forearm to successfully perform a cradle hold.

Laid-back hold (straddle hold): this is a more relaxed, baby-led hold. To perform the laid-back hold, lie down on a pillow, placing your baby against your body with their head above and between your breasts. They will be guided to your nipple by their instincts and gravity. As your baby looks for your nipple, ensure that their head and shoulders are supported but do NOT force the latch. 

Side-lying position: this position not only enables you to rest whilst you breastfeed, but is also useful if you had a C-section. To successfully perform this hold, lie on your side ensuring that your child is facing you by pulling them close [8].

Breastfeeding Problems

One of the most popular nursing problems is cracked nipples. Cracked nipples are caused by a variety of issues, including:

  • Non-ideal position
  • Incorrect latch
  • Suboptimal breastfeeding technique
  • Utilizing a breast pump, especially if the pump flange is not big enough
  • Breastfeeding in the first days after birth, when a baby is learning to nurse
  • Feeding a baby with a bottle before breastfeeding is attempted. This can lead to cracked nipples because the baby will get used to a sucking technique that could damage the nipple when the baby switches over to breastfeeding. 

Sometimes, babies will need supplemental milk in the first days or weeks of life. However, this isn’t necessarily a problem. According to breastfeeding experts, if your baby requires supplemental milk, it is best to feed them with a syringe, cup, or spoon to ensure long-term success in breastfeeding.

To help And Treat Cracked Nipples:

  • Use lanolin-based creams on the nipples after each breastfeeding session. 
  • Apply breast milk, which can prevent cracking and has antibacterial properties, to the nipples and allow it to dry.
  • Avoid wearing bras that are too tight 
  • Avoid using harsh soaps and body lotions that could dry out the nipples [10].

Breastfeeding and Illness (E-lactancia)

Being sick will not prevent you from breastfeeding your baby, as breast milk does not contain diseases and in fact often contains antibodies to help your baby fight off illnesses.

This great online space – http://www.e-lactancia.org/ – helps thousands of breastfeeding moms each day as it answers the question: “Is this medication compatible with breastfeeding?” There, you may check the compatibility of more than 30,000 drugs with breastfeeding. Just type the name of the medication prescribed by your physician in the search box. The answer will not be just “Yes” or “No”. You will see a detailed explanation of the level of risk for breastfeeding (very low risk, low risk, high risk, very high risk). In case of moderate or high risk, E-lactancia will provide you with safe alternatives. 

We love E-lactancia very much as it helps prevent millions of breastfeeding women who might interrupt or end breastfeeding earlier than planned due to illness. 

E-lactancia is a space recommended by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine from the United States of America, La Liga de La Leche, and many other European breastfeeding associations. 

Indications from E-lactancia are made by professionals – European pediatricians and pharmacists – so you can easily find the information you need and trust it [9]. 

Need help with breastfeeding?

Don’t stay alone facing nursing problems. There are a number of ways to get help: 

  • The staff at the hospital where you gave birth
  • A lactation consultant at the hospital. From my own experience, a good one can save your breasts: from massaging in the early days to avoid engorged breasts to giving advice on how to prevent mastitis and how to care for nursing breasts
  • Friends with nursing experience 
  • Facebook breastfeeding groups, local mom’s chats 
  • Doulas. You can learn how to breastfeed properly from doulas who are trained in breastfeeding.
  • A local breastfeeding center may offer resources or a support group. These include:
  • Nursing Mothers Advisory Council 
  • Breastfeeding USA 
  • La Leche League International website . Here, you can find your nearest La Leche League International support group to help you with anything you might need.
  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). They are professionals with lots of knowledge about breastfeeding who can offer support to you. Here is where you can find an IBCLC in your area .
  • The Office on Women’s Health Helpline (800-994-9662). The OWH) Helpline is managed by breastfeeding counselors who can give you detailed answers to your questions in Spanish or English, as well as provide you with or connect you to any other resources you need [11].

The Bottom Line

Nobody can tell you to breastfeed or not. But we hope this article will help you in making your personal decision. 

Without a doubt, breastfeeding a baby is one of the best things you can do for your newborn’s health and development. If something goes wrong with breastfeeding, don’t hurry to finish it. Remember: exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months gives a valuable boost in physical and mental health development. Ask for help. Lactation consultants, breastfeeding centers, online support, and mom’s communities will always support you. 

Even if you don’t nurse for a long time, just a few days or weeks of breastfeeding can have a significant influence on your child’s health. 

Related Posts:

The Difference Between American And European Baby Formula: Ingredients, Quality, And Regulations.

New Parents’ Guide On How To Bathe A Newborn.

If Your Baby Won’t Sleep: Reasons, Sleep Regressions, And How To Cope With It.