Frequently asked questions about Formula


We hear a lot about formula, good and bad. Here are some questions you may be asking as you consider formula as a supplement or eventual substitute for breast milk.

I’ve read that formula-fed babies are more at risk for obesity. Is that true?
That depends on whom you ask. “There’s a possible link between breast milk protecting against obesity,” Shu says.

But other experts disagree with that theory. To minimize the risk of overweight or obesity, make sure you don’t overfeed with formula. It might be tempting to make sure your infant finishes a bottle, but if you’re baby doesn’t want to drink it all, give her less. Also, be careful not to mix in too much powder or add too little water to concentrated liquid formula.

I’ve heard that certain types of plastic bottles are dangerous—what’s the real story?

Plastic bottles made of poly- carbonate plastic have been under scrutiny because they contain a chemical known as bisphenol A. A recent study, conducted by Environment California Research and Policy Center, confirmed the fact that some bisphenol A does leach from the bottles into liquids they contain. However, there is disagreement as to whether or not the amount of chemical leaked poses a health risk.

The environmental group says that bisphenol A has been linked to cancer, early puberty, hyperactivity, and obesity, among other health problems. However, other experts don’t believe that the small amount of chemical presents any danger to humans.

“It’s best to avoid baby products that contain bisphenol A (avoid #7 on the bottom of the bottle),” says Dr. Shu. Alternative bottle materials include glass, non-polycarbonate or opaque plastic (which is soft), and disposable plastic with replaceable plastic liners.

Is it bad to heat it up formula a microwave?
Yes. It may seem to save time, but you could accidentally burn your baby’s mouth. “The problem is that even though what you feel when you put a little out on your wrist is OK to you, microwaves heat unevenly. There may be a lit- tle spot that is scorching and you don’t know it,” Walker says. Instead, fill a large coffee mug with a little water, heat that in the microwave, then set the bottle into the coffee mug so the water sur- rounds it. “That will heat the bottle up quickly and evenly.”

My baby spits up a lot after feeding—what’s going on?

All babies spit up somewhat, because they don’t have the sphincter muscle control to keep milk or formula down in their small tummies. Spitting up excessively might also mean that a baby has been fed too much or has gas. Spit up tends to subside gradually as babies develop and learn to sit up on their own.

If you’re concerned or spit up seems to be increasing, talk to your pediatrician. While it’s possible that spitting up may be a sign of an intolerance or allergy to cow’s milk, or acid reflux disease, you shouldn’t make that diagnosis on your own. “A lot of people go from milk-based to soy-based formula thinking that might help,” Shu says. But she warns, “Don’t blame formula too early, because it might not be that.” If a baby has a true allergy, your pediatrician or an allergist can help you find out for sure.

It’s also not a good idea to frequently switch brands of formula, Walker says. “It’s going to take the baby five to seven days to adjust,” she says. During that time, the baby might experience gas or fussiness. So if you switch again, your baby will have to adjust again. “Anytime the pediatrician recommends switching, we have to allow them at least three to five days to get used to digesting the new sugars and enzymes in that particular formula,” she adds.

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