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Myths you probably believe about infant formula

Isn't formula easier if not better to use?

Many celebrity moms recognize that breastfeeding is the easiest and most natural choice for feeding their babies. In accord with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kourtney Kardashian breastfed her son Mason exclusively for his first 6 months and continued breastfeeding for over a year.

Here we give you the truth about several major myths concerning formula feeding.

Isn't formula more convenient for moms? (myth 1)

For mothers readily available to their infants, breast milk is easily accessible and requires no bottles, washing, sterilizing, or storing.1 Breast milk is always the right temperature and requires no heating. When moms breastfeed throughout the night they get as much or even better sleep when their infants are close by.2

Formula feeding at night requires caregivers to wake completely to properly prepare the formula. For these reasons, many breastfeeding mothers find that breastfeeding is actually more convenient than formula feeding.3

Isn't it easier to prepare formula than to breastfeed? (myth 2)

Nope. Though it may look easy to prepare formula, it's actually quite an elaborate process when you take the proper steps for the baby's health and safety.4 You have to:

  • sanitize the bottles and scoop with boiling water
  • measure the right amount of formula for the amount of water
  • heat the milk evenly (not in the microwave!)5
  • fully clean the bottle of remaining residue

Failing to properly prepare formula increases the infant's exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses.6 Properly preparing formula adds an additional 26 minutes to feeding the child! In short, mothers save time by breastfeeding their infants.

Doesn't formula make more economic sense? (myth 3)

Formula feeding has many hidden costs that often take parents by surprise. Yes, a can of infant formula only costs about $20 and lasts two weeks for a newborn infant, but as the child grows he will begin to finish that can in only five days. Feeding an infant formula exclusively costs more than $2000/year. In addition to the cost of formula, you must also buy a bottle sanitizer, several bottles, a bottle warmer, and a bottle brush. Breast milk is free!7,8

Don't moms benefit more from formula feeding? (myth 4)

In addition to the extra time it takes to properly prepare formula, formula-feeding moms miss out on the numerous health benefits that breastfeeding offers.

  • Breastfeeding protects moms against breast9-14 and ovarian cancer,15 diabetes,16,17 and depressive symptoms.18-21
  • Breastfeeding uses an additional 500 calories, so moms lose their extra pregnancy weight faster.22,23
  • Breastfeeding releases serotonin and oxytocin, which encourages mother-infant bonding.24-26

In other words, breastfeeding protects moms and babies!

Babies who don't breastfeed within 24 hours must be fed formula, right? (myth 5)

During the first hour of life, babies' instincts prepare them to breastfeed. 27

Under natural childbirth, babies will crawl to the nipple and start the breastfeeding process--talk about self-determination!

However, medical interventions like an epidural or a baby's physical or neurological difficulties can hinder babies' ability to latch onto the breast right away.28,29 Nevertheless, babies who have initial difficulties latching can learn to breastfeed efficiently in due time, especially with the help of a lactation consultant.27 Even if babies have difficulty or are unable to nurse within the first 24 hours, it does not mean that the baby must be formula fed. Most babies have reserve energy and don't have to get nourishment right away. Nevertheless, if mom is indisposed, there are breastmilk banks available. Lactation consultants in private practice or with an agency such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, and peer counselors from La Leche League International, can help with these and other issues.

NOTE: Co-authored with Stephanie Sieswerda and Elizabeth Ledden

Previous post: Your assumptions about formula are probably wrong

Next post: The Tremendous Benefits of Breastfeeding


Post #1 discusses why you should care about breastfeeding, no matter who you are.

Post #2 discusses assumptions about infant formula that are wrong.

Post #3 discusses myths about infant formula.

Post #4 discusses the TREMENDOUS benefits of breastfeeding.

Post #5 addresses myths about breastfeeding.

**Check out our YouTube video on breastfeeding vs. formula.**

Post #6 discusses real truths about breastfeeding.

Post #7 provides links to resources for breastfeeding.

Post #8 summarizes the prior posts' main messages in blunt terms.

Post #9 responds to critics of #8.


1) Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(3):CD003519.

2) Keefe MR. The impact of infant rooming-in on maternal sleep at night. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1988;17:122-126.

3) Kawasaki, M.P. (2005). Mothering with Breastfeeding and Maternal Care (pp. 45). Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc.

4) Labiner-Wolfe, J., Fein, S.B., & Shealy, K.R. (2008). Infant formula-handling education and safety. Pediatrics, 122(Suppl 2), S85-S90.

5) Le, H., Carlson, E., Chua, J., & Belcher, S. (2008). Bisphenol A is released from polycarbonate drinking bottles and mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons. Toxicology Letters, 176(2), 149-156.

6) Baker, R. D. (2002). Infant Formula Safety. Pediatrics, 110(4), 833-835. doi: 10.1542/peds.110.4.833

7) Jarosz, L.A. (1993). Breast-feeding versus formula: Cost comparison. Hawaii Medical Journal, 52(1), 14-18.

8) Kawasaki, M.P. (2005). Mothering with Breastfeeding and Maternal Care (pp. 45). Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc.

9) Newcomb PA, Storer BE, Longnecker MP, et al. Lactation and a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 1994;330: 81- 87

10) Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease. Lancet. 2002;360:187-195

11) Lee SY, Kim MT, Kim SW, Song MS, Yoon SJ. Effect of lifetime lactation on breast cancer risk: a Korean women's cohort study. Int J Cancer. 2003;105:390-393

12) Tryggvadottir L, Tulinius H, Eyfjord JE, Sigurvinsson T. Breastfeeding and reduced risk of breast cancer in an Icelandic cohort study. Am J Epidemiol. 2001;154:37- 42

13) Enger SM, Ross RK, Paganini-Hill A, Bernstein L. Breastfeeding experience and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1998;7:365-369

14) Jernstrom H, Lubinski J, Lynch HT, et al. Breast-feeding and the risk of breast cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96:1094 -1098

15) Rosenblatt KA, Thomas DB. Lactation and the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. WHO Collaborative Study of Neoplasia and Steroid contraceptives. Int J Epidemiol. 1993;22:192-197

16) Labbok MH. Effects of breastfeeding on the mother. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001;48:143-158.

17) Stuebe, A.M., Rich-Edwards, J.W., Willet, W.C., Manson, J.E., & Michels, K.B. (2005). Duration of lactation and incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. JAMA, 294(20), 2601-10.

18) Labbok MH. Effects of breastfeeding on the mother. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001;48:143-158.

19) Coles, J. (2009). Qualitative study of breastfeeding after childhood sexual assault. J Hum Lact, 25(3), 317-24.

20) Mezzacappa, E.S. (2004). Breastfeeding and maternal stress response and health. Nutr Rev, 62(7 pt. 1), 261-8.

21) Mezzacappa, E.S. & Katlin, E.S. (2002). Breast-feeding is associated with reduced perceived stress and negative mood in mothers. Br J Rheumatol, 34(6), 542-6.

22) Dewey KG, Heinig MJ, Nommsen LA. Maternal weight-loss patterns during prolonged lactation. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993;58:162-166.

23) Harder, T. Bergmann, R., Kallischnigg, G., & Plagemann, A. (2005). Duration of breastfeeding and risk of overweight: A meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol, 397-403.

24) Prescott, J.W. (1997). Breastfeeding: Brain Nutrients in Brain Development for Human Love and Peace. Touch the Future Newsletter.

25) Klaus M. Mother and infant: early emotional ties. Pediatrics 1998; 102(suppl E):1244-6.

26) Oddy, W. H., Kendall, G. E., Li, J., Jacoby, P., Robinson, M., de Klerk, N. H., et al. (2010). The long-term effects of breastfeeding on child and adolescent mental health: A pregnancy cohort study followed for 14 years. The Journal of Pediatrics, 156(4), 568-574.

27) Small, M. (1998). Our babies, ourselves: How biology and culture shape the way we parent. New York: Random House.

28) Rowe-Murray, H. & Fisher, J. (2002). Baby friendly hospital practices: Cesarean section is a persistent barrier to early initiation of breastfeeding. Birth, 29(2), 124-31.

29) Baumgarder, D., Muehl, P., Fischer, M., & Pribbenow, B. (2003). Effect of labor epidural anesthesia on breast-feeding of healthy full-term newborns delivered vaginally. JABFP, 16(1), 7-13.