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4 Misconception about Breast Milk Vs. Formula

Updated: Apr 11

1. Feeding your infant formula is equal in benefit to breast milk.

Formula is an alternative to breast milk but is not a true equivalent. In general, formula feeding is associated with greater health risks to the infant and the child later on. One of the superior ingredients in breast milk is maternal antibodies that pass immunity from mother to child against infections. If you can breastfeed, that is the superior food for your child, compared to formula.

2. Formula feeding is more convenient than feeding breastmilk.

This is misleading and generally an incorrect belief. Breastfeeding is the quickest, most readily available method to feed a baby. Putting the baby to the breast is faster than mixing and warming formula. A baby drinking milk from the bottle will generally feed faster than at the breast. The downside to quicker feeding may be an upset stomach from the child drinking too much. Bottle-feeding may allow a woman more modesty when outside the house or allow others to participate in feeding. However, choosing to give the baby a bottle on occasion or regularly, does not dictate what type of milk is in the bottle. Breast milk is superior and healthier than formula. Another component of convenience is cost and availability. Formula can be quite expensive. Additionally, some infants will use specific formulas that may not be available at all retail sites. If you run out of formula sometimes there can be a delay in purchasing the desired refill.

3. If I am taking medications then I cannot breastfeed.

There are many medications that are acceptable for mothers to take while breastfeeding. Ask your prenatal provider about the safety of medications and breastfeeding. Some providers that can advise you on the safety of medication use during breastfeeding are Maternal-Fetal Medicine physicians and Clinical Pharmacists.

4. If I am a smoker, I should not breastfeed.

Mothers are highly encouraged to stop smoking, but even if a mother has not yet quit smoking there are advantages to both mother and child from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding lowers a mother’s risk of heart disease and smoking is the second most common cause of heart disease. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), which is higher in infants living in a home with a smoker. Formula feeding and smoking is a greater risk of harm to the child than breastfeeding and smoking! So, if you are a smoker, talk to a doctor about how they can help you quit, but consider breastfeeding no matter what. We acknowledge that not all women have the ability to breastfeed. This post is not intended to shame or guilt loving mothers who want to breastfeed their child but cannot for what ever reasons. There is a trend in North America supporting formula feeding over breastfeeding and we want to ensure women have all the information available to them to understand the facts. Please share any comments with us below.

This article was written by Accessible Professional Team Member Kia Lannaman, MD

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