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Breast vs. bottle for feeding your baby

UK guidelines suggest that mums should breastfeed babies exclusively for the first six months of their life.

Talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor about the benefits of breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding.

Breast milk is the perfect food for baby, with numerous advantages over infant formula, especially in the first six months or so. Here is why:

  • It is always available.
  • It is free.
  • It contains active infection-fighting white blood cells and natural chemicals that give increased protection against infections in the first months, when these can be the most serious.
  • It contains the perfect proportion of nutrients that your baby needs, including protein, carbohydrates and calcium.
  • It is easily digestible.
  • It may protect against allergies and asthma in the future.
  • It may decrease a baby's risk of obesity in the future.
  • It may contain some fatty acids that promote brain development.
  • Breastfeeding can help new mothers lose weight more easily.

Additionally, there are probably other beneficial components of breast milk that we are not aware of and so are not added to formula.

Bottle feeding baby

There may be medical or other reasons why a mum will want to bottle feed a baby instead of breastfeeding. Always follow the manufacturer's directions for preparing and storing infant formula.

  • There is no need to heat the formula for your baby. Drinking it at room temperature is fine.
  • Once a bottle has been used but there is still milk in it, it is OK to store it in the fridge until the next feed, but the milk should be thrown away after that.

Tips for choosing a formula

  • Do not hesitate to pick a less expensive brand of formula if finances are a factor. Most formulas are pretty much the same. More expensive does not necessarily mean better.
  • Select an iron-fortified formula. There is a lot of evidence that iron deficiency in the first years adversely affects brain development. And side effects from iron (wind, constipation, discomfort) while much discussed, are actually very rare.
  • Pick whichever type of formula -- powder, concentrate or ready-to-feed -- best suits your needs. There is no nutritional difference between them.
  • Choose cow's milk formula over soy to start with.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 26, 2014

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