Risks with formula feeding

Learn about the risks associated with formula feeding.

The compositions of breast milk and formula have important differences. Babies are at greater risk of infection with formula, as people may:

  • use ineffective sterilisation techniques
  • use unsafe water
  • reconstitute formula incorrectly
  • store milk powder and/or reconstituted milk incorrectly.

Breast milk:

  • varies in composition over the lactation period and during a single feed to meet the child’s individual and varying appetite and thirst (and hence nutrition and fluid requirements)
  • contains many beneficial bioactive components that assist in baby's gut maturation, physiological development and immunity
  • provides nutrients (eg, protein, calcium and iron) that are more easily digested than those in formula
  • contains the polyunsaturated fatty acids required for retina and brain development
  • contains taurine for fat absorption

Because of these important differences, infant formula does not decrease, and may increase, the risk of infectious and chronic disease.

Where to get advice

If you have questions about feeding your baby, talk to your doctor, midwife, Well Child/Tamariki Ora nurse, lactation consultant, or dietitian.

For free information and advice 24 hours a day, ring Plunketline on 0800 93 39 22 or Healthline on 0800 611 116.

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