New Health Risks Associated With Formula Make Breastfeeding Look Even Better

Mom Moment 23

It seems like every week another study touting the benefits of breastfed babies over formula babies comes out to agitate the mommy wars. Well, no, the studies probably aren't trying to do that. But we get it, scientific community, we get it. Breastfed babies are better, 'kay? They're smarter, they're more popular (later in life), and it saves 830,000 babies' lives a year. Breastfeeding is even supposed to lower your risk of cancer. But in case you needed any more proof that "breast is best," here comes a study that says formula-fed babies might be more susceptible to chronic disease.

A study at the UC Davis Department of Nutrition says that:

Formula-fed infants experience metabolic stress that could make them more susceptible than breast-fed infants to a wide range of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, liver problems, and cardiovascular disease.

Apparently formula-fed infants grow larger faster than breastfed babies, which sounds great, you want your baby to grow. But growing too fast can mean problems. Said the lead researcher:

You want your baby to grow, of course, but growing too quickly is not such a good thing.

In the study, after just four weeks, formula-fed babies (baby monkeys that is, cause monkeys were used in the study) were larger; had "distinct bacterial communities in their gut" (ew!); had higher insulin levels; and processed amino acids differently.

Says one of the buzzkill biochemists who did the study:

Our findings support the contention that infant feeding practice profoundly influences metabolism in developing infants and may be the link between early feeding and the development of metabolic disease later in life.

Yikes. Well, I think we all know breast milk is, as the researcher puts it, "excellent source of nutrition that can't be duplicated." But that doesn't mean that moms who feed formula aren't doing the best they can and they shouldn't be shamed.

I have one friend who simply was NOT producing enough milk for her baby, and needed to supplement with formula. She tried everything. What exactly was she supposed to do?

Sometimes I think these studies get out of hand. I understand the need for them -- but I know of one guy, in his 30s, who still holds it against his mom that she didn't breastfeed! Dude, get over it.

But for moms who are on the fence about it, they should really do their research and give it the best try they can.

Do you breast or formula feed?

Image via Daquella Manera/Flickr

baby first year, breastfeeding


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nonmember avatar Amom

The World Health Organization's infant feeding recommendations are first breastfeeding directly from the mother, second mother's expressed milk, third donor breast milk, and fourth formula. I don't think research like this is about shaming mothers, it should be a call to action to support breastfeeding as the norm, and increase access to human donor milk for babies whose mothers can't produce enough milk. Formula should be a last resort, not just another lifestyle choice.

katyq katyq

I agree with amom. Science is not out to get formula feeding moms. Facts are not biased or "mean" and brreast really is best.

corri... corrinacs

Thanks for posting the facts on this one.  Its an interesting finding.  Unfortuantely, not everyone can be breastfed, and that's why there is a heirarchy.  My sons both had so many food allergies, there was no way I could support feeding both of us.  I couldn't trust donor milk, there's no way I would know precisely what the donor had eaten :/, and with as many allergies as they had it is too easy to screw up.

nonmember avatar blue


nonmember avatar ted3553

couple issues with the story and comments.
1. This study was on monkeys. they may be similar but they are not the same as human babies you can't equate 1:1 the results.
2. Anyone who tells me that science shows breast is best will then lose me when they say Formula shouldn't be a lifestyle choice. I am with you on science showing what option is best but it also shows that people shouldn't eat heavily processed foods or fast foods and people do-including those who think i'm a bad person for formula feeding by choice.
Talk about the science but don't tell me what I should and shouldn't do unless you're my mom

Craft... CraftyJenna

This is not about shaming mothers. There are still way too many women out there who believe that breast milk is unhealthy, that formula is better somehow, imigrants who think that since the hospitals give them formula samples that is what they are supposed to do for their baby. The fact that formula exists for people who NEED it is great, but there is a real need for studies like this, for people to realize that formula should be the back up plan to breastmilk. 

katyq katyq

@craftyjenna....i know an afghan woman who was stressing really bad because she was having troube weaning her 3 month old from bm to formula. She said " i am worried because its just not healthy for her to have breastmilk for more than a couple of months" . I cannot brlieve people like this exist but they do     ...-_-

pengua pengua

I get it. Breast is best. Does there really have to be a new study about it every other month?

pengua pengua

@katyq- GASP! I know how horrible it is that not everyone is as educated as you. You are aware many Afgan women are denied an education right? Since you singled her out as being Afghan you might want to remember that.

casso... cassobeano

I'm so sick of this breast vs formula thing. I formula feed and both of my children are fine.

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