Formula feeding is increasingly becoming the norm, with over half of infants in the US receiving formula by 3 months of age.
The CDC also reports that in the U.S., 19% of infants are supplemented with formula within the first two days of their birth. On the other hand, in Africa, over 60% of babies are given formula under six months. About 66% of infants across the globe are on formula, either exclusively or combined with breastfeeding. Furthermore, about 8.2 million Americans consumed formula in 2020.
Despite this widespread use, there are several misconceptions about formula feeding that can lead new moms to feel guilty or question their feeding choices. Choosing how to nourish your precious little one is a personal choice, and judgment shouldn’t cloud your decision. By getting the facts straight on common formula myths, you can feel confident in making the best decision for you and your baby.
This blog will share some of the most common misconceptions about formula feeding and help them so that you can make an informed decision on how to feed your baby.
#1. Formula Feeding Is Less Nutritious Than Breastfeeding
For decades, formula was framed as the lesser option to breast milk. But, it surely isn’t true now!
While it’s true that breast milk does contain immunity-boosting components, studies show only minor differences in health outcomes between breastfed and formula-fed infants. The CDC agrees that iron-fortified formulas provide adequate nutrition for a baby’s first year, as long as you follow proper preparation and handling.
Commercially prepared infant formulas are strictly regulated and should meet the specified nutrient composition. Some formulas contain Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), Arachidonic acid (ARA), and Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM), which are naturally found in breast milk and help improve cognitive skills. Additionally, some formulas are enriched with prebiotics and probiotics, known to support a healthy gut microbiome and potentially enhance immune function.
So, yes, while breast milk is the best, formula milk isn’t far behind!
#2. All Formulas Are the Same
Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without proper research and test-riding, choosing the right formula for your precious little one requires even more careful consideration.
Infant formulas come in various types, categorized by their protein sources (cow’s milk, soy, hydrolyzed, amino acid-based), lactose content, and additional nutritional features. You can also find formulas for preterm babies and babies allergic to cow milk.
With so many choices from various brands, it’s important to select a manufacturer you can trust for safety and quality. Search for companies that follow FDA guidelines and have a track record of reliability. However, there are no guarantees even if you find a trusted company.
Take the recent ongoing Enfamil lawsuit as an example.
This lawsuit highlights the importance of staying informed. Enfamil was a well-known, trusted brand in the infant nutrition industry for decades. But, now, the company is facing lawsuits over marketing claims and product labeling. The NEC baby formula lawsuit accuses formula manufacturers like Enfamil and Similac of causing NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis) in premature babies.
According to TorHoerman Law, the lawsuit also alleges that Mead Johnson, the make of Enfamil, was aware of these issues, but did nothing to resolve them.
So remember, trust your instincts, and do your research on any formula brand to ensure they adhere to high standards. In the end, finding a reputable company with a formula type that suits your baby’s needs and nutritional requirements is key.
#3. Formula Feeding Will Make the Baby Overweight
There have been concerns about whether formula feeding causes more weight gain in babies as compared to breastfeeding.
However, there’s no conclusive evidence to prove so. Certain studies indicate a potential link between high-protein intake in the early stages of life and increased risk of obesity. Other research shows that low-protein infant formulas may reduce the risk of obesity among formula-fed infants. This only proves that more research is needed into this subject.
Yet, many researchers agree with one thing: certain feeding practices play a key role in weight gain.
Overfeeding, exceeding recommended amounts of formula, or failing to adjust as babies grow can lead to excess calorie intake. This calorie intake can cause rapid weight gain, which can be an indicator of future obesity. Remember, the focus should be on proper formula preparation, adhering to feeding guidelines, and fostering a healthy family lifestyle, including a balanced diet and physical activity.
By doing so, you’re setting your baby up for healthy weight development, regardless of your chosen feeding method.
#4. Formula Feeding Will Cause the Baby to Have More Allergies
Cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) is common in babies under 1 year of age.
It occurs when your body abnormally reacts to a milk protein and attacks it. As mentioned, it is highest among babies under one and affects about 2%–3% of the population. But, there’s nothing to worry about as the risk decreases as the baby gets older. On average, it is found in less than a percent of kids aged six or older.
Now, it is a known fact that breast milk exposes babies to early proteins, which may provide an initial immune boost. But, it doesn’t make much of a difference. As compared, genetics, and family history are more influential factors.
Besides, the latest research shows that feeding your baby bovine (cow)-based formula can reduce the risks of bovine allergies by about 88%. However, there’s no direct relation between formula feeding and contracting food allergies, or other health conditions like asthma, or eczema.
As with any parenting decision, the best option would be to consult your pediatrician and make well-informed choices for your baby’s health.
#5. Formula Feeding Is “Unnatural” and Makes You a “Bad” Mom
Some old-fashioned attitudes persist that formula feeding is somehow “unnatural” and moms who don’t exclusively breastfeed are not doing the best for their babies.
Every mother faces unique circumstances and makes informed choices based on her needs and the baby’s well-being. Choosing to breastfeed, formula-feed, or navigate mixed feeding, for either medical, physical, mental, or practical reasons does not make you a “bad” mom.
Remember, infant formula was created to mimic breast milk and provide babies with complete nutrition. So, focus on what you can control: selecting a safe and suitable formula, prioritizing responsive feeding cues, and building a loving bond with your baby.
In conclusion, formula feeding is a safe and healthy choice for many infants, and it’s essential to dispel the misconceptions surrounding it.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to infant feeding. Focus on your baby’s needs, your health, and lifestyle, and make the choice that’s right for your family. Formula can provide complete nutrition when picked mindfully and handled properly.
So, ditch the judgments, trust yourself to nurture your child, and don’t let misconceptions make you question your care and abilities as a mother.