World Breastfeeding Week 2022: Experts explain why instant formula foods cause more harm than good


For the first six months, every infant must be breastfed exclusively with mother`s milk and nothing else, as this will ensure proper growth of the child and help build immunity against various ailments, say doctors. The practice known as exclusive breastfeeding is crucial for the infant`s nutrition and early development.

While earlier generations were fed on mother`s milk alone, many alternatives for complimentary feeding have captured the market these days. For various reasons, instead of giving mother`s milk, parents tend to feed formula foods available in the market to their infants. This is a regressive sign, and our society must not encourage this in any form, say doctors while stressing the importance of mother`s milk during the ongoing World Breastfeeding Week.

“A newborn baby can be equated to the most delicate thing on the earth, and this newborn baby needs utmost care and nourishment to survive and emerge into a greater individual in the years ahead. Only breastfed mother`s milk has the purity combined with necessary nutrients in proper proportions to ensure infant gets required nutrition, and there cannot be an alternate to that in the first six months of an infant`s life,” Dr. Suvarna Rai, Consultant Gynecologist, SLG Hospitals said.

“The best aspect about mother`s milk is that it changes in volume and composition according to the time of the day, infant`s age, nursing frequency, etc., to ensure healthy growth of the baby,” he added. According to Dr Chandra Sekhar Manchala, Chief Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Amor Hospital, mother`s milk is also important because it is the only one which can protect an infant against all forms of allergies, sickness, and even does not cause obesity, which is a major risk caused by formula foods.

“Mother`s milk is not just easy to digest, it even helps build immunity against future ailments like diabetes, cancers, ear infections, etc. Babies fed with mother`s milk are seen to have healthier weights growing up, compared to those who depend on formula foods,” he said. Highlighting risks associated with formula foods, Dr. G. Santhoshini, Gynecologist, Aware Gleneagles Global Hospital said that formula foods are not natural.

“This must be the reason enough to discourage parents from opting these foods available at marketplaces. These formula foods can cause complications like gastrointestinal diseases or cause respiratory tract infections among infants. It has been noticed that formula foods even have adverse effects on the intellectual development of a child,” the doctor said.

According to the doctor, mothers who do not breastfeed their infants are at an increased risk of suffering from breast cancer than those who do breastfeed. “Formula feed is the leading cause of obesity in kids these days as most mothers are working and they are in a hurry to join back their offices. As a result, these mothers start the formula feed early so that it is for the caretaker.”

Dr K. Rama Devi, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Century Hospital, pointed out that some new mothers opt in for formula foods because they are not able to generate milk naturally. “Every woman who conceives must follow certain basic guidelines during pregnancy, which will ensure every mother produces sufficient milk to feed her child. On conceiving, women must ensure they take proper rest and avoid mental and physical exertion. Taking nutritious foods like a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, etc., will ensure women do not have any complications in producing milk sufficient for the child,” she said

“Mothers who breastfeed their babies have less bleeding during labour, no postpartum depression, and a better bond with the babies. It also reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, uterine and breast cancers. Maternal deaths are also significantly reduced by breastfeeding children. Breastfeeding children reduces family expenses. As the babies can be saved from major infections with mother`s milk, their hospital visits reduce and financial burden gets reduced. Since the natural resources do not disappear, it is also very conducive to the environment,” said Dr Aparna C., Director Neonatology & Senior Consultant Neonatology and Paediatrics, KIMS Hospitals.

Initiated in 1992, World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and UNICEF. This week is conceived to promote breastfeeding of every infant in the first six months of life, which is considered as the steppingstone for a healthy individual and an accomplished society.

Also read: World Breastfeeding Week: Mumbai expert debunks myths existing among new mothers

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