The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother as well as the infant are very well known. The risk of not breastfeeding defines formula feeding as the norm. Studies say that breastfeeding is best to prevent several diseases in infants than formula feed.
Evidence states that feeding an infant formula instead of breast milk increases the chances of infections and ailments in infants. It also weakens the immune system and increases the chances of illnesses in the baby. Therefore, mothers all over the world are encouraged to breastfeed their little ones.
10 Important Reasons Why We Should Not Use Formula Milk
Breast milk is a gift of nature and it is every mother’s duty to breastfeed the infant. Babies face a higher risk of short-term and long-term infections and health problems when he/ she is deprived of this golden liquid. Let’s have a look at the child health outcomes when infants are formula fed:
Greater Risk of Infections
Infants who are formula fed are at a greater risk of infections. Some infections are so severe that it may even lead to the death of the infant. A vital preventive intervention to save the lives of children is breastfeeding.
An interesting study found that infants who were exclusively formula fed were greatly associated with increased odds of hospitalization for:
- Neonatal sepsis.
In comparison, studies had further found that the risk of these infections was much lower in infants who were exclusively breastfed.
Breast milk possesses anti-infective, nutritional and sanitary properties. These properties are responsible for the protective effect of breastfeeding. It stimulates the development of an infant’s immune system and keeps infectious diseases at bay.
Even though it is claimed that infant formulas are nutritionally balanced and wholesome, it cannot offer the unique health benefits that breast milk provides to the babies. The chances of infections with the use of infant formula are high because of:
- Poor hygiene.
- Contaminated water or lack of clean water.
- Difficulties associated with reading and understanding the mixing instructions mentioned on the formula packet.
Therefore, even using the best and the most sophisticated infant formula cannot provide health advantages as that provided by the breast milk.
Otitis media is a painful infection of the middle ear. Infants in their first year of life are at a risk of otitis media, but this is doubled in infants who are formula fed.
Human milk antibodies and oligosaccharides fight against pathogens and provide protection against otitis media. Breastfeeding allows important bacterial and hormonal interactions between mother and baby, which impacts the eustachian tubes.
Research has reported that bottle feeding may create a negative pressure on the middle ear of the infant while feeding. Thus, such infants are at a greater risk of developing otitis media.
Increased risk of obesity in later life
Studies suggest that breastfeeding is associated with a modest reduction in the risk of later obesity. It further found that infants who are breastfed are leaner as compared to infants who are formula fed.
Formula feeds contain high protein content, which increases growth rate and deposition of fat during infancy. On the other hand, breastfeeding induces lower plasma insulin levels, which in turn decreases fat storage and prevents the early development of adipocytes or cells that store fat.
Feeding practices are also a contributing factor to childhood obesity. A very interesting study found that using a large bottle in early infancy causes excess calorie intake, which leads to weight gain and obesity in the future.
Feeding behaviors such as encouraging emptying of the bottle, are linked to encouraging children to ‘eat everything on their plate’ or ‘clean their plates’ when older.
Human milk contains certain compounds that regulate energy intake and appetite. The absence of these unique compounds in formula feeds may be responsible for obesity.
Evidence from research studies suggests that formula feeding in infants increases the risk of metabolic stress, which is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and less favorable lipid profile in the future or adulthood.
It was further found that breastfeeding is a modifiable risk factor for metabolic disorders for infants. Formula-fed infants have high insulin levels, which boosts deposition of fat in the body and it is very well-known that obesity is the root cause of all the metabolic disorders.
Some studies have also reported that being formula fed in infancy is associated with 1.6 times more risk of developing diabetes mellitus in adult life, as compared to breastfed infants.
Infant formulas are said to be nutritionally balanced and healthy, but many biological components of breast milk cannot be reproduced.
The non-essential fatty acids present breast milk provide a measurable benefit to the breastfed infants over their formula-fed counterparts on childhood scales of cognitive developments, says a study.
Certain factors that promote the development of the central nervous system are present in a lower concentration or are completely absent in the infant formulas.
Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) is a constituent of the central nervous system, that impacts the structure of the brain, signaling systems, and promotes brain development and optimal memory function.
A study found that lower concentration of DHA is detected in the red blood cells, plasma and a part of the brain of the formula-fed infants. Infant formulas contain the precursor to DHA and formula-fed infants need to synthesize their own DHA.
Though they can do this effectively, the rate at which DHA is synthesized is low. Therefore, this can have an impact on cognitive development as well as the IQ.
Diarrhea is a common gastrointestinal infection among formula-fed infants, even though infant formulas are considered nutritionally acceptable for infants. Factors responsible for diarrheal diseases in infants, who are not exclusively breastfed include:
- Contamination of bottles and utensils in which, the feed is prepared and fed.
- Impure or contaminated water.
Besides this, infant formula has a high casein and low whey content. Because the infant’s gut and kidneys are weak and immature, such a composition may add pressure or strain on the infant’s digestive system. This may often result in diarrhea and intestinal bleeding, which further leads to malnutrition.
When foods other than breast milk are given to the infants, especially cow’s milk before 12 months of age, the risk of diarrhea and other health disorders increases. In the absence of breastfeeding or when breastfeeding is stopped, infants are exposed to food-borne germs, which raises the chances of gut infections.
When compared to bottle-fed infants, the breastfed ones have a lower incidence of diarrhea and gastroenteritis, due to the presence of anti-infective components in the breast milk.
Respiratory Tract Infections
Studies have reported that infants who are not breastfed have 3.6 times higher risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infection in the first year of life as compared to infants who are breastfed.
Bottle feeding stimulates gastro-esophageal reflux, which in turn is associated with chronic respiratory symptoms.
Another interesting study found that the incidence of wheezing and asthma within 5 years after birth were 1.5 times higher in bottle-fed infants.
Gastro-esophageal reflux and microaspiration irritate the airways, which causes inflammation. This causes airway remodeling and bronchospasm. Therefore, mothers should always choose to breastfeed over bottle feeding.
Bottle feeding is more cariogenic and some authors have found that bottle feeding is a risk factor for dental caries. The sugar content of the formula feeds may be responsible for dental caries in children less than 5 years of age.
Studies have also reported that breastfed infants are at a lower risk of dental caries, whereas the risk is higher among bottle-fed infants.
Other Ill Effects
Other short-term and long-term negative effects of formula feeding on infant health include:
- Eczema or other inflammatory skin conditions.
- Necrotizing enterocolitis.
- Physical growth and development: Formula-fed infants started crawling and even walking later than those that were exclusively breastfed, reports a study.
- Lower visual acuity.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Infant mortality: The risk of infant mortality is 1.3 folds higher in formula-fed infants as compared to breastfed infants.
Exclusive breastfeeding not only provides benefits to the infant, but it also reduces the risk of various maternal diseases and disorders. Mothers who breastfeed their little ones lose weight and regain their body shape. They are also at a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, depression, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Therefore, using formula feeds and not breastfeeding is associated with health risks for the mother as well. Therefore, health specialists from all around the world promote lactation and encourage mothers to choose to breastfeed over formula feeding.
Summary: Breast milk cannot be duplicated by artificial means. It has a unique composition and properties, which cannot be copied by the formula industry. Breast milk is a gift of nature and it is impossible to recreate this golden liquid. Though infant formulas are nutritionally-balanced and are considered to be completely safe for infants, its impact on the baby’s body is not as great as breast milk. All mothers should breastfeed their infants exclusively and should not opt for infant formulas during this crucial period of an infant.
- Wood, C. T., Skinner, A. C., Yin, H. S., Rothman, R. L., Sanders, L. M., Delamater, A. M., & Perrin, E. M. (2016). Bottle Size and Weight Gain in Formula-Fed Infants. Pediatrics, 138(1), e20154538. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4925078/
- Uwaezuoke, S. N., Eneh, C. I., & Ndu, I. K. (2017). Relationship Between Exclusive Breastfeeding and Lower Risk of Childhood Obesity: A Narrative Review of Published Evidence. Clinical medicine insights. Pediatrics, 11, 1179556517690196. doi:10.1177/1179556517690196 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5398325/
- Oddy WH. Infant feeding and obesity risk in the child. Breastfeed Rev. 2012 Jul;20(2):7-12. Review. PubMed PMID: 22946146. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22946146
- Does breastfeeding prevent the metabolic syndrome, or does the metabolic syndrome prevent breastfeeding? Seminars in perinatology, 39(4), 290-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516665/
- Breast Feeding versus Formula Feeding and Diarrheal Diseases in Infants and Children- A Review, Journal of Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons ISSN 1015-0870. https://www.banglajol.info/index.php/JBCPS/article/view/21033
- Munir M. Infantile diarrhoea: breast and bottle feeding compared with special reference to their clinical role. Paediatr Indones. 1985 May-Jun;25(5-6):100-6. PubMed PMID: 4080396. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4080396
- Kim, H. Y., Han, Y., Pyun, Y., Kim, J., Ahn, K., & Lee, S. I. (2011). Prolonged bedtime bottle feeding and respiratory symptoms in infants. Asia Pacific allergy, 1(1), 30-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3206237/
- Avila, W. M., Pordeus, I. A., Paiva, S. M., & Martins, C. C. (2015). Breast and Bottle Feeding as Risk Factors for Dental Caries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PloS one, 10(11), e0142922. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142922. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651315/