The Top 7 Formula Myths, Debunked!

We recently polled a large parent community on Facebook to understand common misconceptions about formula feeding. Boy, did we get a response! Parents and Caregivers across the country had been told some pretty incredible and inaccurate things about formula. Today, we’ll break down these myths and get to the facts about formula feeding.

Myth 1: Formula is poison

This is an enduring belief that is often lobbed at new parents in the height of their sleep-deprived stupor. In addition to being insensitive, it’s also simply not true. At Little Bundle, our European formulas are crafted to include all of the essential nutrients that are found in breast milk. Vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, protein-- formula has it all, just like breast milk! Check out this formula versus breast milk nutritional comparison for more information.

The primary components in our baby formulas are derived from nature, including:

  • Lactose and whey from animals, typically cows or goats
  • Maltodextrin (a starch) from potatoes
  • Fats and omega fatty acids from vegetable oils
  • DHA from fish or algae

Additional ingredients may be formulated in a lab in order to ensure that the product closely mimics the composition of breast milk. This even includes prebiotic and probiotic strains, such as those found in our HiPP formulas! Rest assured that infant formulas are stringently tested and regulated to ensure they’re safe for infant consumption.

Myth 2: Formula-fed babies sleep longer at night

Oh, how we wish this were true! Some parents are told that formula is “heartier” and harder to digest, which allows babies to sleep longer before waking up hungry. While a small-sample 2003 study suggested that formula-fed babies were quicker to learn to sleep through the night, it does not show that formula causes infants to sleep longer. 

As any new parent knows, babies wake up during the night for a variety of reasons, and hunger is just one of them. So many factors influence how well a baby sleeps, including temperament, and most babies will wake frequently for the first several months regardless of how they’re fed.

Myth 3: Babies who drink formula will be obese

While several studies show a correlation between formula feeding as an infant and obesity later in life, these studies are not causative-- they do not show that obesity is caused by formula-feeding. 

Instead, the differences seen in obesity rates may be due to other choices across families. We know this because a study that analyzed more than two decades worth of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) found that within sibling pairs, there was no greater risk of obesity in a sibling who was formula fed versus one who was breastfed. The study conclusion states,

Once we restrict analyses to siblings... estimates of the association between breastfeeding and all but one indicator of child health and wellbeing dramatically decrease and fail to maintain statistical significance.” -Social Science & Medicine (PubMed)

Myth 4: Giving formula will reduce a baby’s IQ

There are a lot of iterations of this myth floating around. What does the research say? The PROBIT study, conducted in Belarus in the 1990s, looked at the effects of breastfeeding on IQ and school performance. The results were shocking! They reported a statistically significant difference in verbal IQ scores between participants who were breastfed versus formula-fed. 

Many people interpreted this to mean that breastfeeding promotes higher IQ scores.

However, after controlling for the mothers’ IQs, the difference in child IQ scores was no longer significant. This implies that breast milk does not make an infant smarter, but rather that women with higher IQs tend to be more likely to breastfeed.

Myth 5: Formula-fed babies get a lot of ear infections

Several high-quality studies have shown that formula-fed babies are slightly more likely to get ear infections. However, this does not mean that babies who drink formula will get one, much less a whole handful. A study conducted in 2016 found that breastfeeding for six months reduced the risk of a single ear infection by 2%-- from 7% to 5%. 

This means 95% of breastfed babies and 93% of formula-fed babies will avoid ear infection in their first 6 months. While formula feeding does seem to increase the risk, it does so very minimally.  

Myth 6: Babies who get formula will have allergies

This myth is based on the idea that babies who receive breast milk are at lower risk for food and environmental allergies given the cumulative exposure to common allergens in their mother’s milk. Is this true? Looking back at the PROBIT study, which included over 17,000 infants, there was no long-term evidence that breastfeeding reduced the incidence of allergies, asthma, or respiratory tract infections. 

It seems that allergies, like many of the other factors on this list, may be the result of a combination of familial and genetic factors and not infant feeding choices.

Myth 7: Moms who formula feed aren’t as bonded with their babies

This one is harder to tackle with data as an emotional attachment is hard to quantify. Here’s what we know from talking to moms: when a mom feels good about how and what she’s feeding her baby, she feels content and bonded. For some moms, breastfeeding is wonderful-- they love the physical closeness, the exchange of pheromones, and the continuation of a symbiotic relationship where the baby depends physically on the mom for sustenance.

For others, breastfeeding is extremely difficult-- they can’t get a good latch or the baby reacts poorly to something in the mother’s diet, and the exchange can be very stress-inducing. 

What matters significantly, in terms of bonding, is the mother’s attitude toward the baby. 

While breastfeeding can release “feel good” hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, it’s not the milk itself that promotes bonding. 

Every baby deserves a happy mom, and if formula feeding is what makes a mom feel like she can tackle motherhood with joy, the baby will benefit. 

Now You Know!

Feeding your baby with formula is a safe and effective way to meet your infant’s nutritional needs. If formula feeding or supplementing is the choice you’ve made for your baby, you can do so worry-free knowing these myths are just that-- myths!

If you’re looking for support with your feeding journey, Little Bundle has what you need. We offer a large collection of high-quality, organic formulas and created a one-of-a-kind Buyer’s Guide to help you select the right one for your little one.

Happy feeding!