Breastfeeding and Formula Milk

Women's Health, Infant and Children | May 28, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

women's health

Breastfeeding and Formula Milk

Breastfeeding a child certainly has a variety of benefits for both mum and bub. It can help with bonding and contains a range of nutrients which change in composition to suit the child’s need during different stages of development. However, breastfeeding is not possible for every mum for a variety of reasons including attachment issues, low milk production and infection. With the extensive range of formulas available on the market, the selection process can be overwhelming. In this article, we will look at what some of the choices are—cow’s milk and alternatives etc. to help you make the right choice for your little one.

The benefits of breastfeeding

breastfeedingThe National Health and Research Company recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. Here are some of the maternal and infant benefits.

Nutritional content

Breast milk provides the correct balance of energy, nutrients and other beneficial substances.

Breastfeeding, however can drain maternal stores so taking a breastfeeding multivitamin and omega-3 can help ensure all nutritional needs are being met.

In breast milk many of the nutrients, including calcium, iron and zinc are easier for the baby to absorb compared to formulas. It also contains higher concentrations of DHA, nucleic acids, taurine and arachidonic acid, all of which are unable to be synthesized by baby and are essentialfor its health. It contains enzymes that help to break down carbohydrates and fats—allowing for absorption by baby, as its digestive system is to immature for this process. To help the gut mature there are maternal growth factors and hormones present.

breastfeeding1Interestingly, breastfeeding promotes the acceptance of a wider range of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, provided these were foods eaten by the mother.

Reduces infection

Breastmilk provides a child with substances that help to protect it from infection such as secretory IgA, mucin and lactoferrin.

Numerous studies have found that breastfed children experience fewer infections such as otitis media, diarrhoea, respiratory and urinary infections. There is also a protective effect of breastfeeding against eczema and asthma as it helps to increase the bacterial diversity in the gut—important for healthy immune maturation and function.

Reduced disease risk

Some studies have suggested breastfed children have a reduced risk against a range of certain diseases including childhood leukaemia, obesity, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Prolonged exclusive breastfeeding has also been associated with a higher IQ.

Benefits for mum

There are also many benefits for mum too.

breastfeeding bondingBreastfeeding after birth helps to accelerate recovery after childbirth and increases bonding.

Breastfeeding is convenient and doesn’t cost a thing!

The increase in energy expenditure with breastfeeding may also contribute to weight loss, helping a woman to return to your pre-pregnancy weight faster.

There are also some studies to suggest it helps protect the mother from type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and possibly breast cancer.

Factors that may reduce the ability to breastfeed

The post-partum time can be an incredibly challenging and stressful period for many, including having difficulties breastfeeding. Here are some reasons that can reduce a mother’s ability to breastfeed:

  • Infections, most commonly mastitis
  • Post-natal depression
  • Painful or inverted nipples
  • Stress, anxiety and fatigue
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Certain medications
  • Reduced or no milk production

The facts on formula

breastfeeding formulaIf your baby isn’t breastfed and is under 12 months, then you will need to feed your child infant formula. Here’s some information on what formulas are all about:

  • Formula has been modified to mimic breast milk as much as possible
  • It includes a range of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and minerals that are necessary for all of a child’s needs
  • Formula fed babies can thrive and grow the same way as breastfed babies
  • A diet of straight cow’s milk will not give a baby all their nutritional needs

What formula is right for your child?

Cow’s milk formula

This is the most common type of formula available on the market. It uses cow’s milk as the base but the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and other nutrients have been changed so that they closely resemble breastmilk. Formulas also contain iron, but sometimes if these levels are too high they can cause constipation.

Any alternatives?

Allergy and intolerance to dairy is common in both adults and children and because of this there are a variety of alternatives available on the market.

breastfeeding alternativesSoy formula is certainly one to avoid as it can increase the likelihood of peanut allergy and asthma, while also interfering with hormone levels.

Other alternatives include lactose free and fully hydrolysed formula.

Lactose-free formula is suitable for a child with lactose intolerance.

Fully hydrolysed formula is for a baby who has a cow’s milk allergy but it can be very pricey.

It is best to speak to your paediatrician if you suspect your baby isn’t tolerating a dairy based formula.


Some formulas are also fortified with probiotics, which are types of live bacteria that provide a range of health benefits. Some research has shown these probiotics may prevent or treat disorders such as infectious diarrhoea and eczema in children. Other possible benefits include reducing your child’s risk of food-related allergies and asthma, prevent urinary tract infections or improve the symptoms of infant colic. Alternatively, a probiotic specific for infants can be added to formula after it has been heated.

Thickened formula

These types of formulas have a thicker consistency and are designed for babies with reflux or who regurgitate. It can also help to eliminate the need for medication.

In conclusion, breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for your child but this is not always possible. Formula is a great alternative, providing all the essential nutrients for a child’s development with a similar composition to breastmilk.


Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Forestell CA, Mennella JA. Early determinants of fruit and vegetable acceptance. Paediatrics. 2007 Dec;120(6):1247-54

Oddy WH. Breastfeeding, childhood asthma, and allergic disease. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 2:26-36

Westmark CJ. Soy-based therapeutic baby formulas: testable hypotheses regarding the pros and cons. Front Nutr. 2017 Jan 18;3:59

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