a mother with her new born baby

Your breastfeeding questions answered, part 1: Is formula better for babies than breast milk?

During August 1st-7th this year, we celebrated World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and breastfeeding advocates in over 175 countries. We officially pledged to take part in this year’s WBW campaign to help raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. As our key area of focus is the health and wellbeing of women and children, we want all parents to be fully educated on the health benefits that breastfeeding has for both mother and child. For this reason, we’re continuing our campaign throughout the month of August, in hopes of dispelling some of the most common myths about the negative effects of breastfeeding.

We asked mothers to send us their most pressing questions about breastfeeding and received a diverse range of submissions. Today, we’re addressing one of the most popular questions.


Question: Is it true that fortified formula is better for the baby than breastmilk?

Answer: No. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way for a mother to feed and nourish her infant, as it is the optimal food for babies. Formula attempts to mimic the components in breastmilk, but breastmilk is a living substance with important immunological properties that cannot be replicated in a formula. Formula is not a living product so it doesn’t have the antibodies, living cells, enzymes or hormones that protect babies from infections and diseases later in life. Breastmilk changes constantly to protect babies and help them grow optimally. Since infant formula only tries to copy human milk, it is missing many of the things in human milk which are important for babies’ growth and health.

The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk can protect babies from illness. Breastfed babies are at a lower risk for ear infections, diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, asthma, eczema, obesity, type 2 diabetes, urinary tract infections, childhood leukemia, and other illnesses when compared with babies who are given formula. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and breastfed babies may have better neurological development.

Formula can also be harder for infants to digest. For most babies, especially those that are born premature, breastmilk substitutes like formula are harder to digest than breastmilk, as formula is made from cow’s milk, and it often takes time for babies’ stomachs to adjust to digesting it.

It is important to note that there are some rare instances in which a new mother simply can’t breastfeed, and in these cases bottle-feeding or supplemental formula is a healthy alternative.

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions, we hope you found this informative! Watch this space for more answers to your breastfeeding questions throughout the month of August.