Breastfeeding Compared to Formula Feeding

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Whether you’re a parent or not we all have heard the debate of which is better for babies, breastmilk or formula, ultimately fed is best but there are some very important health benefits that come from breast milk. Antibodies and other germ fighting factors are passed from mother to baby during breastfeeding. Breast milk is also easier for newborn babies to digest and carries all the vitamins and minerals that newborns require other than vitamin D which is prescribed as a supplement to breastfed babies.

Some other benefits of breast milk include that its free compared to formula, its more convenient, some studies have shown that children who were/are exclusively breastfed babies have slightly higher IQ’s than formula fed babies and it is also beneficial to mom. Breast feeding can help mothers burn calories, shrink their uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size and lower their risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, post partum depression and also may help decrease the risk uterine and ovarian cancer. We know that breast feeding may not be possible for all new mothers due to their own comfort levels, different lifestyles and certain medical conditions. If mothers are unable to breastfed or chose not to then mothers are still supported in their decisions and are educated that formula is a healthy alternative that has all the nutrient that babies need to grow.

Breast milk is the liquid food source made by a mothers breast for her baby. It is a natural occurrence that happens in response to pregnancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a child’s life to help protect against infections and reduce the baby’s rate of later health problems (diabetes, obesity and asthma). If a mother is unable to or choses not to breastfeed, formula is the alternative. There are many different types of formula that vary by brand and country to country, but the typical baby formula is milk that is made up of processed skimmed cow’s milk with different to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2018 Breastfeeding report card, approximately 83.2 perfect of the 4 million babies born in 2015 started out breastfeeding. Many stopped earlier than recommended according to the 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card. Nearly six in ten infants are still breastfeeding at six months and only one in four are exclusively breastfeeding. One of Healthy People 2020 goals is to increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed.

PICO Question

In children, how does breastfeeding for the first six months of a child life compare to formula feeding affect a child’s long term wellbeing?

The Risks of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers and Infants Article Summary

This article goes over the health outcomes in developed countries that differ substantially for moms and babies who formula feed compared to those who breastfeed. In infants who were not breastfed are more commonly associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, diabetes, leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome. There are also risk for mothers who do not breastfeed that include an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction and metabolic syndrome. This article stated that there was a study done in 2002 that found out that mothers who were advised about the benefits of breastfeeding viewed lactation as a bonus and that it was not essential for infant health. Women responded differently when the same information was presented as the risks of not breastfeeding.

Breast Milk, Formula, the Microbiome and Overweight Article Summary

A study in Canada lead by Jessica D. Forbes and colleagues, found out that infants who were formula fed early in their lives were more likely to be overweight by one years old compared to those who were exclusively breastfed. Formula was also associated with an alteration in infants intestinal microbiome at 3 months of age. The study found that the alpha diversity present in breastfed babies were lower early in life than in formula fed babies. Formula fed babies, as a whole developed overweight to a greater extent as young children.

Clinical Experience

I have not been to my labor and delivery/mother baby clinical yet so I am unable to relate it to that experience as of now but I assume I will see mothers struggling with what decision to make that is best for their baby. I assume I will see some mothers that are able to breastfeed and some that aren’t. I hope to see healthcare providers providing information about breastfeeding in the format of the risks of not breastfeeding rather than the benefits of breastfeeding so that parents don’t see breastfeeding as an option that is just an extra benefit to infants.


From the given evidence from articles and information in our textbook stating the differences in health outcomes, breastfeeding should be acknowledged as the norm for infant feeding and does affect a child’s wellbeing long-term. Evidence based practice suggests that breastfeeding is the key modifiable factor for both the mother and infant. Epidemiologic data shows that women who do not breastfeed are at a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.


  1. Ben-Joseph, E. P. (Ed.). (2018, June). Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding (for Parents). Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breast-bottle-feeding.html.
  2. Breast milk vs formula: How similar are they? (2017, October 24). Retrieved from https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/breast-milk-vs-formula.
  3. CDC Releases 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0820-breastfeeding-report-card.html.
  4. Evidence-Based Resource Summary. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/tools-resources/evidence-based-resource/breastfeeding-interventions-in-pregnant-women-and-new.
  5. Evidence-based support for breastfeeding. (2015, April 1). Retrieved from https://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/contemporary-pediatrics/news/evidence-based-support-breastfeeding.
  6. Infant and young child feeding. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://data.unicef.org/topic/nutrition/infant-and-young-child-feeding/.
  7. What’s in Breast Milk? – Nutrients and Vitamins in Breast Milk. (2019, July 16). Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/whats-in-breastmilk/.
  8. Mueller, E., & Blaser, M. (2018, September). Breast milk, formula, the microbiome and overweight. Retrieved 9AD, from https://search-proquest-com.ezgcc.vccs.edu:2443/docview/2086678225?accountid=27362.
  9. Stuebe, A. (n.d.). The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812877/.

Cite this paper

Breastfeeding Compared to Formula Feeding. (2021, Jan 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/breastfeeding-compared-to-formula-feeding/



Do babies drink less formula compared to breast milk?
Yes, babies tend to drink less formula compared to breast milk as formula is less easily digested and does not offer the same immune system benefits as breast milk. However, the amount of formula a baby needs varies depending on their age, weight, and individual needs.
Is formula feeding as good as breastfeeding?
Formula feeding is not as good as breastfeeding because it does not provide the baby with the same antibodies that breastfeeding does.
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