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Breastfeeding vs Formula: Myths

There are many breastfeeding vs formula feeding myths that demonize formula feeding. Here are some common breastfeeding vs formula feeding myths—debunked.

mom bottle feeding baby and bonding breastfeeding vs formula feeding

I struggled to breastfeed. I wanted to switch to formula long before I actually did, but felt like there was so much shame in formula feeding. I associated formula feeding with sickly images of kids who weren’t as smart as their breastfed counterparts. I thought feeding formula meant that I wasn’t giving my daughter the best.

In the end, my body produced close to nil breastmilk, so I had to formula feed. My mental health improved and I realized there were some myths I had believed around breastfeeding vs formula. Breastmilk and formula were both just ways of feeding my child.

Food.

That was it.

It didn’t need to have guilt or shame associated with it.

We formula fed Evelyn for an entire year. She had barely any breastmilk throughout her life. And while I know we are lucky to have a healthy and happy little girl, I also know many of the images I had of formula fed babies were simply wrong. There were many breastfeeding vs formula feeding myths in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. There are SO MANY benefits to breastfeeding, for both babies and their moms, and it can be especially beneficial for infants born prematurely. But for those moms who cannot breastfeed or choose not to for their mental health, your babies will be okay if they are formula fed!

Here are some of the most common breastfeeding versus formula feeding myths. I hope these can give you some peace of mind that it’s okay if you can’t or choose not to breastfeed. I know you love your child all the same!

fbreastfeeding vs formula feeding myths  mom bonding with baby

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding Myth #1—Formula-fed babies don’t bond with their mothers

Part of the special bond formed during feedings is the skin-to-skin contact between parent and baby. Nick and I both did skin-to-skin often with Evelyn, even while bottle feeding her. Babies eat frequently, so you have plenty of opportunities to hold, snuggle, and fawn over your baby. You can still bond with your baby even if you don’t breastfeed.

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding Myth #2—Breastfed babies are smarter than formula-fed babies

There are studies that show breastfed babies perform slightly higher on tests of mental development than formula-fed babies. And then there are studies that look at additional factors including family income, parent education, maternal age, and how much stimulation a baby receives. Intelligence is better explained by those factors than by breastmilk alone. The point is there are several factors that go into a person’s intelligence: genetics, school attendance, prenatal nutrition, social environments, family, and peer groups. Don’t think your baby won’t amount to their full potential because of what they ate as a newborn.

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding Myth #3—Formula feeding is more convenient

Don’t get me wrong, formula feeding can be a lot more convenient at times. It’s easier to leave your child with a spouse or babysitter. You don’t have to worry about wearing certain clothes, leaky breasts, or keeping a pumped stash. But it can be a hassle too. I cannot tell you how many bottles and nipple parts I washed that first year. You constantly have to measure scoops of powder and water to mix the perfect bottle. If you want to go anywhere, you have to pack a myriad of parts. Formula means constant washing, warming, measuring, and packing!

mom formula feeding her baby. formula feeding myhrs

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding Myth #4—Formula feeding makes you selfish/lazy/etc.

Listen to me mama. How you feed your baby does not define you as a mother. You are not lazy or selfish or fill in the blank if you can’t breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed. I became mentally healthier once I stopped breastfeeding and I’ve met many other moms who felt the same. The fact that you’re reading this shows you care deeply about your child.

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding Myth #5—Breastfed babies are happier

You can find things out there that say breastfed babies are fussier and cry more as well as things that say formula fed babies are fussier. However they are fed, babies tend to have fussy periods, at least up until 3 or 4 months old. Babies also tend to have different temperaments, regardless of how they are fed. I know from personal experience that my formula-fed little girl was a very happy baby!

Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding Myth #6—Feeding your baby formula can be deadly

When I was struggling to breastfeed, I wanted someone to tell me it was okay. I looked to the internet for answers and instead of finding support, I came across an article that said formula fed babies were more likely to die than breastfed babies. I was a wreck.

After further research, I learned that the only way formula feeding can be deadly is when people are not using clean water or mixing the formula incorrectly. This unfortunately does happen in developing countries, but it is not a product of formula feeding, It is a product of unclean water and improper mixing.

I recently listened to a fascinating podcast that discussed the history of formula and breastfeeding in the world and it really explained why formula has a negative reputation. I recommend listening to it if you’re curious!

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Amy Motroni

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