Doctors Weigh In: Breastfeeding or Formula?

In time for Mother’s Day, SERMO asked doctors: breastfeeding or formula? 4048 doctors from 20 different countries weighed-in:

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• 54% said that they would really prefer that all moms breastfeed, but that is not always possible
• 16% said that both breastfeeding and formula are fine, that mom should choose
• 15% said they were okay with breast feeding and occasional formula supplementation
• 14% recommend breastfeeding only
• 1% recommend formula only

In the conversation that accompanied the poll, several doctors weighed in with different perspectives.

Some doctors felt that breastfeeding had a distinct medical and emotional advantage.

As one Swedish Internal Medicine physician elaborated, “Nothing like breastfeeding, both for the nutrients and immune system of the newborn as for the direct contact between the mother and the baby (safety, smell of its’ own mother, the heartbeat that the baby could hear for 9 months, the caress… Everything is so important).”

A Venezuelan GP reiterated the point, articulating, “Breastfeeding is synonymous with life, health and most importantly the perfect and wonderful rapport between mother and infant. It is an opportunity to share immunity and provide the necessary protection to face immune challenges.”

A French GP underscored the immunological benefits, explaining, “I recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6-9 months to enable optimal development of the newborn and infant. It was during this period that is for example the transfer of maternal antibodies to the baby whose defense system is almost nonexistent at birth.”

A Mexican Pediatrician supported the assertion, “It is highly recommended to guide the mother on breast feeding, and… explain the benefits for herself and her baby.”

Other doctors felt that there was not a terribly significant difference between formula and breastfeeding.

A U.S. Pediatrician said, “Quite honestly, I couldn’t care less how a mother feeds her child. I see just as many sick children who are breast fed as I do formula fed. In the grand scheme of life it’s but a tiny factor that goes into raising a healthy child.”

An Argentinian Internal Medicine doctors agreed, noting “As a child I had formula, and 40 years later I still have functioning neurons and no nutritional deficits.”

The most common sentiment was an emphasis on doing no harm – to mother or baby.

A Canadian Pediatrician explained, “Breast-feeding or formula-feeding are both okay, but does not need to be exclusive or obsessively exclusive!”

A Canadian Psychiatrist agreed, “I think breast feeding is a great goal. As long as EVERYONE is encouraging to do the best they can – I’m happy.”

A U.S. Oncologist commented, “No guilt trips please. Formula feeding is sometimes the best option. The most important thing is a growing healthy baby and a non-guilt ridden mother.”

An Italian Oncologist agreed, explaining “If the mother can breastfeed and has enough milk, priority must be given breastfeeding for all the benefits that entails. If the amount of breast milk is insufficient… [formula] should be used, without much hesitation… Demonizing mothers who can not or are unable to breastfeed is not useful neither for the mother nor the child.”

A U.S. Urgent Care doctor reiterated the sentiment, “Absolutely there are benefits to breastfeeding, but making a new mom feel like a failure as a parent before she’s even left the hospital is pretty counter-productive.”

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