Stories about: breastfeeding vs. formula

Feeding your new baby

By Susan Laster, MD, a primary care physician with the Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Boston Children’s who practices in Brookline, Mass.

hen your baby is born, one of the first responsibilities you’re faced with as a new parent is feeding her. But feeding decisions can cause anxiety for new mothers and fathers who are unsure about what the healthiest options are for their newborn.

“Should we breast feed or bottle feed? 

 Can I pump my breast milk?

 Is it OK to offer breast milk in a bottle? 

Is it the right time for her to eat this?”

Unfortunately, like most child-rearing, there is no such thing as a universal, one-size-fits-all answer to many of these questions. But, with some guidance and a little homework, you can make confident, informed feeding decisions that work best for your family.

One way to look at feeding is to view it as the first stage of your child’s lifelong relationship with food. And as a parent, it’s your introduction into meal planning, which will become something you’ll think about throughout her entire childhood. If our ultimate feeding goal is to raise kids who become adults who enjoy eating and can prepare tasty, healthy meals, then the foundation of that relationship starts in infancy. 

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Can breastfeeding for longer make a child smarter?

There are many scientific studies showing that breastfeeding offers health benefits to infants. Many of these reports focus on tangible benefits, like breast milk’s ability to help babies ward off allergies or reduce their risk of developing gastrointestinal issues. But quality research demonstrating how breastfeeding can affect an infant’s brain has been far more difficult to produce. Previous studies on the topic have made connections, but they didn’t account for many other factors that influence a child’s development, like his mother’s intelligence, socioeconomic status, home environment during key developmental milestones or if he was raised with homecare vs. daycare.

In addition, many of these studies focused only on whether baby was “ever breastfed” or “never breastfed.” By ignoring an entire population of children raised on both breast milk and formula—or researching how much time they spent receiving either— these studies fail to truly define the potential role breastfeeding plays in a child’s future cognitive development.

To better explore the issue, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Newborn Medicine recently conducted a study on the possible ways breast milk and intelligence are related, while accounting for several of the factors ignored in other studies. In doing so, the team has produced the most complete analysis of the subject to date.

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Starting solids too early may increase obesity risk

The study's authors, Susanna Huh and Sheryl Rifas-Shiman

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new study online today that reinforces its previous recommendations that parents wait to introduce solid foods to their babies until they are at least 4 months old. The study was co-led by Susanna Huh, MD, MPH, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and Sheryl Rifas-Shiman, MPH, a research associate at Harvard Medical School/ Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

Huh and Rifas-Shiman’s research followed 847 children from birth, and found that among formula-fed infants, those who were given solid food before 4 months were six times more likely to be obese by the time they turned 3 than those whose parents waited until 4 or 5 months to feed them solids. Interestingly, the timing of solid food introduction didn’t seem to be related to the risk of childhood obesity in children who were breastfed.

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