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Study Says Supplementing Breast Milk with Formula Negates Immunity Benefits

breastfeeding, formula feeding

More fuel for the breast vs. bottle debate.

Okay, calm down.  Calm down.  Yes, I know you’ve been crying all day because your baby won’t latch and your nipples are bleeding but you’re putting yourself through hell anyway because “breast is best.”  BUT – a new study shows that while “breastfeeding definitely has protective benefits for baby’s immune system… The caveat is that these benefits diminish if a baby isn’t fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.”

Dear scientists behind this study: on behalf of every mother out there, I salute you.  With a giant bird.

Our own Being Pregnant blogger Rebecca Odes concluded about the study, “Babies who were fed a combination of breast milk and formula showed little immunity advantage over those who were fed just formula.”  She says the 10% of the 926 infants studied in Greece who were still being exclusively breastfed at 6 months old “had lower rates of ear, respiratory, and thrush infections than the babies who were fed formula or a combination of formula and breast milk.”

But why?  The folks at WebMD don’t say.  Are bottle-fed babies getting ear infections because they’re being put to bed with a bottle at night, and thus fluid is draining into their ears?  What’s the big deal about thrush, anyway?  It’s said to be “harmless.”  (My daughter had it as an infant and my pediatrician acted like all babies get it.)  Respiratory infections – okay – those can be a big deal.  (And an ear infection can be the result of a respiratory infection.)  My daughter was formula fed and thankfully never had one.  In fact, I think she had one cold as an infant – I swear – we were lucky.

I don’t know what to say other than I refuse to feel guilty about the fact that I had trouble breastfeeding and fed my daughter formula before she turned 6 months old – and I hope everyone out there in the same predicament or who has made the same choice does, too.  The results of this (very small) study shouldn’t make moms who wish to continue to combine breastfeeding with formula feeding feel like they might as well give up and go straight to the bottle – the baby bottle, I mean.  (Put down the vodka, Mommy – it’ll be alright.)  Do what you can and what you feel is best – your child will be fine as long as he is loved.

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