Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Formula-feeding support

If two-thirds of new moms initiate breastfeeding, the other third feeds formula right from the start.  What’s more, only 7.2% exclusively breastfed for six or more months (CDC, 2008); the 2005 Infant Feeding Survey in Britain showed that only 1% of babies were exclusively breastfed for one year.  That means that the vast majority of babies eat some formula during their lives.

Given this, we would expect that formula-feeding moms would have plenty of information and support.  However, according to a 2009 survey of data on formula feeding, “Many mothers who bottle-feed their babies reported receiving little information on bottle-feeding and did not feel empowered to make decisions…some healthcare providers noted that the WHO/Unicef code discourages active dissemination about bottle feeding.”  (Lakshman, 2009.)

The result of moms being uninformed is that hygiene and safety guidelines in bottle-feeding aren’t always followed. This includes using warm tap water, heating prepared bottles in the microwave, and over or under concentrating feeds.  Some mothers also changed formulas frequently which is not recommended. (Lakshman, 2009.)

Anecdotally, when I left the hospital with my newborn, there was not one document on formula feeding in the reams of paper I received on all things baby, nor had anyone at the hospital discussed it with me.  I went by the instructions on the can, though I still don’t know what the risks are if I, say, over concentrate feeds by adding the water after the powder.

It would be a shame if part of the effort to encourage breastfeeding meant a failure to address the needs of bottle-feeding moms.  Withholding of information about alternatives isn’t usually the best way to encourage something.  I think we’d be better off if new moms knew at least a little about both feeding methods, because most of us will feed formula at some point, and we owe it to our kids to get it right.

1.     Lakshman, R; Ogilvie, D; Ong, K. K. “Mothers’ experiences of bottle-feeding: a systematic review of qualitative and quantitative studies.” Archives of Disease in Childhood, 12 May 2009. 
2.  Center for Disease Control. 2008 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance, National Summary of Breastfeeding Indicators, Children Aged less than 5 years [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/pednss/pednss_tables/html/pednss_national_table3.htm


  1. yeah at the hospital when I said breastfeeding they checked that and it automatically meant no formula, no info on formula and no pacifiers. which, in one way is good so it didn't impede any progress or momentum i had beginning the breastfeeding. now, i get tons of info from the formula retailers in the mail, daily, for the past 3 years. but even they can vary on their recommendations for formula feedings, portions, etc.

  2. I didn't think that using formula was all that complicated. The directions were right on the can! I received info on both breastfeeding and formula when I was at the hospital, and I know my pediatrician gave me handouts about it. Lynne -- they didn't give you formula samples at the hospital? I got several samples both times, and even our pediatrician gave me free sample size cans when I settled on a brand.

    I will admit though, that despite all the warnings, I did microwave bottles! If you don't make the milk really hot, and turn it upside down a few times before feeding, it works just fine.

    I disagree with the study you quoted about how women who bottle-fed did not feel empowered to make decisions about their baby. Maybe some women feel that way, but I can say that I never have -- he's my boy, and I'm going to make the decisions!!!

  3. interesting....as with breastfeeding I guess the info you get depends on the hospital. At both hospitals I was at I had wonderful lactation consultants who stopped by hours within the birth. when I had my c-section she stopped by when I wasn't ready to try so we set up a time for her to come back and she did.

    but we also got a diaper bag with the formula logo on it full of formula and pages of info about it.