Formula-feeding myths busted

It’s only natural that parents have strong feelings about how they take care of their children, and it’s issues that are the most deeply tied into a family’s day-to-day lives, like feeding and sleeping, that tend to draw the most disagreement. The breastfeeding vs. formula feeding debate has been argued a million times over. Humanity learns more about the similarities and differences between formula feeding and breastfeeding every year, but there are still a few myths and misconceptions about formula feeding that aren’t always recognized as myths.

Myth 1: “Formula feeding will cause health problems for babies later in life”

It’s true that breastfeeding has health advantages over formula feeding, especially when it comes to the immune system in the first few months after a baby is born. Breast milk transfers antibodies from parent to child, and these antibodies protect the baby from immediate threats like respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, as well as long-ranging issues like chronic illnesses and asthma.

On the other hand, breast milk is only one factor that can contribute to these health concerns, and many babies who are breastfed still develop health problems, while many who are formula-fed are perfectly healthy. General trends can give some ideas about what might happen, all other things being equal, but your baby has a very specific asset on their side – you.

You’re looking out for their health, and breastfeeding or not is only one of a thousand factors that contributes to Baby’s overall health and well-being.

While there are good reasons why organizations like the World Health Organization advocate for extended breastfeeding in a more general sense, when it comes to children who are being raised with regular access to safe, clean water and enough nutrients and minerals, it’s less clear how much of a dramatic difference breastfeeding makes in comparison to formula feeding.

Myth 2: “Formula feeding gets in the way of mother-child bonding”

Breastfeeding is definitely a great way for new moms who want to breastfeed to start to bond with their newborns. However, it’s far from the only way to bond with a baby. Feeding is always a great time to bond with your baby, whether you’re feeding them with a bottle or at the breast.

Feeding time gives you the chance to hold your baby close and make eye-contact. Even newborns’ eyes can focus in on their parents’ faces when they’re being held in position to feed, probably as an evolutionary advantage for greater parent-child bonding, so don’t be afraid to look deep into Baby‘s eyes – it’s exactly what evolution wants you to do! Skin-to-skin contact is another way to get started bonding. 

Myth 3: “Formula feeding is taking the easy way out”

The truth is that breastfeeding and formula feeding both have their own challenges. Formula feeding may be easier in some senses, especially making it easier to share feeding duties with a partner, but breastfeeding can be easier in the sense that, when the baby is hungry, there’s no need to prepare a bottle, or heat the bottle, or to bring enough formula for a day out, because when they are hungry, their mom will be able to nurse them right away.

Babies eat a lot, and keeping them fed takes a lot of time and effort, no matter which way they’re fed, which is why each family needs to look at its needs and desires and figure out the way to feed that’s best for them in particular.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 115(2): 496. Web. March 2012.
  • Orit Avishai. “Five myths about breast-feeding.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, May 31 2012. Web.
  • Emily Caldwell. “Breast-feeding Benefits Appear to be Overstated According to Study of Siblings.” Ohio State University. Ohio State University, February 25 2014. Web.
  • Sydney Spiesel. “Tales from the Nursery.” Slate. The Slate Group, March 27 2006. Web.
  • Anne L. Wright, Richard J. Schanler. “The Resurgence of Breastfeeding at the End of the Second Millenium.” The Journal of Nutrition. 131(2): 421S-425S. Web. February 1 2001.
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