Feeding your Baby

How do I decide whether to breast-feed or bottle-feed my baby?

Most women will probably think about this before the actual birth. Many will be influenced by the experiences of those closest to them, such as their own mother or their friends.

There are a lot of myths about breast and bottle-feeding. The most important thing to do is become fully aware of the pros and cons of both types of feeding. Then you can make an educated choice on which type will best benefit both you and your baby.

It is important to note that if you are breast-feeding but it doesn't seem to be working, you can switch to bottle-feeding. However if you begin with bottle-feeding, you cannot later change to breast-feeding because your breasts will stop producing milk if they are not stimulated by the baby.

Why should I consider breast-feeding?

  • Breast milk is a complete food for every baby. It contains exactly the right blend of nutrients and its composition constantly changes to suit the baby's changing needs.
  • It is easy for the baby to digest.
  • Breast milk contains antibodies which help protect the baby from disease. This is important in the first few months as the baby's own anti-body forming system is still maturing. Bottle-feeding can not offer this protection. (It is important to note that even if you only breast-feed for a few days, you will still provide your baby with valuable antibodies in that short space of time.)
  • No special equipment is required. Breast milk is always sterile and always at the correct temperature.
  • Even if you are ill, you can still breastfeed as this won't affect the baby. However illness may temporarily reduce your milk levels. (If you have a general anaesthetic for whatever reason, you will not be able to breast-feed for a few hours after, as the drugs will be passed on to the baby.)
  • Sucking is important for a baby. It is a distinct need and it gives them pleasure. For this reason, breast-feeding may be more enjoyable for the baby. When a bottle-feed is over, the bottle is removed. However with breast-feeding, the baby usually decides when the feed is over. This allows them to enjoy more sucking as well as milk. Because of the need to suck, a quick breast-feed will often soothe a crying baby in the first few weeks.
  • Breast-fed babies are not usually overweight. It is easier to overfeed a bottle-fed baby. Breastfeeding is free.
  • Breast-fed babies tend to get less colic, eczema and stomach bugs.
  • Since breastfeeding is such a close, intimate act, some women enjoy the experience because of the bond it brings between them and their baby.
  • From the mother's point of view, breastfeeding stimulates contractions of the womb (uterus), helping it to return to normal.

Why should I consider bottle-feeding?

  • Having a baby can be an extremely tiring time for everyone involved. Bottle-feeding means your partner (or others) can take turns feeding the baby, giving you a rest. This is especially helpful at night as it allows the woman to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Being involved in feeding may also allow you partner to develop a closer bond to the baby.
  • You do not have to worry whether your baby is getting enough milk or not because you can see how much they have had.
  • If a woman has to go back to work or go somewhere without her baby, breastfeeding becomes more difficult.
  • While some women may find breastfeeding more convenient because they don't have to carry bottles or equipment when they go anywhere, others find it quite difficult to breastfeed in certain places, for example in a restaurant. They may be uncomfortable breastfeeding in public places and unfortunately the attitudes or comments of others may influence this decision.
  • Breast milk can be temporarily reduced by illness, stress or tiredness. This is not a problem for bottle-fed babies.

Back to top of page