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Top 7 Myths About Formula Feeding

Baby formula doesn't deserve the bad reputation it has gained. Today, we're shattering 7 myths about formula-feeding, to empower parents no matter what feeding decisions they make.

Formula tends to get a bad rap that it doesn't deserve. It's no help that older versions of baby formula were not designed with baby's nutrition in mind.

But today's baby formula is designed to replicate breastmilk as closely as possible, and give baby all the nutrients they need for healthy growth.

So even though "breast" may still be "best," formula is a great alternative. 

Today, we're going to shatter 7 common myths about formula feeding.

Myth 1: "Breast is best," so formula is bad for baby and should be avoided at all costs.

Fact: No one should be shamed for formula-feeding, as every family is different. You need to make the best decision for you and your baby.

There are many reasons why a family may choose formula-feeding over breastfeeding---and that's totally fine!

  • Sometimes, moms don't produce enough breastmilk, and need formula to supplement the breastmilk. 
  • Other moms may have a health condition that prevents them from breastfeeding, because of the medications they must take. 
  • Still others may be unable to breastfeed because it's too painful, or because surgeries or inverted nipples make it too difficult.  
  • Sometimes, a pediatrician will recommend formula for a given baby, and the parents will follow the pediatrician's trusted advice.
  • And for some parents, formula is a personal, sometimes necessary choice. They may choose formula because the mother works outside the home, because the birth mother is not in the home---or simply because they believe formula works better for baby and family. 

No matter the reason you want to formula feed, you should feel empowered in your choice.

Learn more from Board Certified Pediatrician Dr. Caitlin Colvard about breastfeeding v. formula:

Myth 2:  Formula doesn't come close to matching the nutritional value of breastmilk.

Fact: Just like breastmilk, baby formula contains all the nutrients needed to help baby grow. 

Since the 1980s, the development of baby formula has been closely regulated---all formulas need to have specific amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to promote baby's healthy growth. These amounts are carefully selected to replicate the protein, carbohydrate, vitamin, and mineral amounts in breastmilk.

Even though breastmilk provides immune support that formula can't, that's about the only difference between breastmilk and formula. Formula can't match breastmilk, but it does come extremely close.

Myth 3: Formula can't build baby's brain health in the same way that breastmilk can.

Fact: Many years ago, this was true. But today, since formula manufacturers know all the nutrients baby needs for healthy growth, formula contains brain-boosting ingredients that replicate the ones in breastmilk. DHA and ARA, two of the main nutrients in breastmilk that build brain health, are now included in formula as well, so breastfed babies no longer have an edge in brain health. 

And many studies, including one published in the British Medical Journal, show that "breastfeeding has little or no effect on intelligence in children" compared to formula feeding. 

Myth 4: Formula causes obesity.

Fact: Some evidence shows a connection between formula-feeding and obesity… but that's not because of the formula's ingredients. If babies put on too much weight while formula-feeding, that's because they're being overfed. And it's easier to overfeed with formula than with breastmilk.

So, watch closely to make sure you aren't overfeeding baby. Look for signs of fullness, like when your baby turns their head away from the bottle or no longer seems interested in sucking. Choose a smaller bottle with a slow-flow nipple. And ask your doctor about how much formula you should give your baby at a time--- and stick to the limits.

Myth 5: If I feed baby formula, I lose out on the bonding time that I would get with breastfeeding. 

Fact: Bonding with your baby is all about skin-to-skin contact and facial recognition. You can still bond with baby effectively during formula feeding, as long as you keep those two factors in mind. So, hold your baby's skin close to your skin, look into their eyes, and talk or sing to them while you bottle feed---as well as at other points throughout the day. Baby doesn't need to be latched to your breast to bond with you in these important ways. 

Myth 6: Formula-fed babies are more likely to develop food allergies than breastfed babies.

Fact: A recent study has shown that feeding cow's milk-based formula can actually help reduce a baby's milk allergy risk. 

Results of the  breakthrough SPADE study indicate that feeding cow's milk-based formula to babies ages 1-2 months can help reduce a baby's milk allergy risk by up to 88%. (Read our guide to the SPADE study here.)

As for other food allergies, formula-feeding hasn't been shown to increase or decrease baby's risk of developing a food allergy. So, don't worry that your decision to feed formula will put your baby at greater risk for food allergies.

Myth 7: If I feed baby formula while breastfeeding, it will be hard for them to switch between the breast and formula bottle, and they may refuse the breast.

Fact: Most babies can switch back and forth between the breast and the formula bottle without problems. And if baby does start to refuse the breast---or the bottle--- the bottle is probably causing the problem. If you're mixing breastfeeding and formula-feeding, choose a bottle that closely mimics your breast. It should have a breast-like nipple, and a slow flow to mimic your own milk flow. Also, position your baby and the bottle to mimic the position they use to suck at the breast--- this will help them drink slowly. Then, baby should be able to switch back and forth with no issues. But what if baby starts to prefer the bottle? This is a sign to give them more time on the breast, so they become equally happy with both.

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

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